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Revell 1/72 Walrus: Whale-spotting in the Southern Ocean


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revell-walrus.jpg

This the old Matchbox kit, reissued by Revell. I'm using it as a basis for a model of an unusual Walrus---one of two that were carried by the S.S. Balaena factory ship during the whaling season of 1946-7. They could be catapult-launched, or lowered into the sea for a conventional water take-off. They were used to gather information about approaching weather, about the ice conditions, and to spot whales. (No-one had ever used an aircraft for whale-spotting at that time, and there was significant doubt among the whalers that it was even possible to see a submerged whale from the air.)

John Grierson, who was in charge of the aircraft, left details of the adventure in his book Air Whaler (1949), a lecture to the Royal Geographical Society entitled Whaling From The Air, and an article in Flight magazine entitle Air-Whaling. So the aircraft are fairly well documented. In fact, a total of four Walruses were originally purchased and equipped for the Antarctic, registrations G-AHFL, G-AHFM, G-AHFN and G-AHFO. Grierson won the 1946 Folkestone Aero Trophy race in G-AHFN, but it then never left England. G-AHFM, christened "Moby Dick", got as far as South Africa and was then left behind---the hangar on Balaena could only accommodate two aircraft, and a third would need to be "parked" on the catapult, making aircraft handling and maintenance excessively complicated. But G-AHFL "Boojum" and G-AHFO "Snark" made it to the Southern Ocean and logged 96 hours flying there.

I've modelled "Boojum":

G-AHFL.jpg

Boojum-on-crane.jpg

For a while Boojum flew without its undercarriage, and I considered modelling it in that mode, but ended up just not liking the look of it:

boojum-no-undercarriage.jpg

The hook under the nose was characteristic of these aircraft, used for what was called a "mat recovery". Still under way, the Balaena would tow a net over the side, and the aircraft would motor up on to the net and cut power, snagging the net.

Walrus-mat-pickup.jpg

Here's the model:

boojum-11.jpg

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The propeller discs I designed and printed myself---a tricky one, given that the four-bladed prop is actually two two-bladed props, so I needed to make two parallel transparent discs to get the correct effect. The base is magnetic--a scratch-built cradle that fits behind the underside step, and an old Airfix base.

 

The major mods are the grab-rail around the nose, which I built from 0.5mm brass rod, and the "free" tailwheel, pieced together from bits of styrene and brass (the kit includes only the conventional tailwheel, with its rudder shroud and the oleo compressed). Minor stuff includes the rigging (monofilament), the nose hook (brass), the towing eyes (styrene), rear hatch rails (styrene), the various ropes and shackles (stretched sprue), the aerial supports (brass) and aerial wires (monofilament). I opened the observer's windows (the kit has them closed and represented by black rectangular decals), drilled out the front of the nacelle, added the spray fairing on the starboard side (the kit models this only on the port), removed the supenumerary thermometer housing the kit has placed on the starboard side, closed the rear hatch, added some styrene to its front end to model its real shape, and opened its small windows. There was also a bit of reshuffling of the interior, which doesn't show up in the photographs.

 

The kit came together pretty well, despite an error in the Revell instructions which has one of the nacelle strut parts the wrong way around. I used a JBOT decal sheet as a basis for the markings, but ended up using only a couple of decals off the original JBOT sheet, and added most of the markings from a revised sheet I printed myself. More about those two problems in the WIP:

 

I'm annoyed with my weathering, which is pretty slight generally, but I took a notion to a bit of salt spray around the nose, and I now find it more ugly and distracting than realistic. <Sigh.>

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Great model and a fascinating subject! As I am interested in whaling history, I also have thought about building one ot the whalilng Walruses,but never even got close to starting the project. So its nice to see that someone has done it. And thank you for providing the sources!

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On 8/10/2021 at 8:02 PM, Doc72 said:

Great model and a fascinating subject! As I am interested in whaling history, I also have thought about building one ot the whalilng Walruses,but never even got close to starting the project. So its nice to see that someone has done it. And thank you for providing the sources!

Thanks. I'm also interested in whaling, and have now discovered an interest in John Grierson, who led an interesting life and wrote several books about it. Unfortunately, Goodreads have associated Air Whaler with the wrong John Grierson, and I've so far been unable to persuade them to change their records.

I'm glad you found the sources interesting.

 

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17 hours ago, kapam said:

An awesome build!

Everything from the rigging to the seascape is beautifully executed!

:clap2::clap2:

Thanks very much, but I can't take credit for the display base. Once again, I've posted a completed build and forgotten to give credit to Coastal Kits---I own several of their bases, and they're all excellent.

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14 hours ago, abat said:

This is superb! The magnetic mount and twin propeller disk really add to build.

Thanks. If I make another one of these, I'll position the magnet slightly farther back. The step seemed like the obvious place to tuck the magnetic cradle, but the rake on the wings actually moves the CoG surprisingly far back. I originally had a little felt pad on my cradle, but had to remove it because the extra distance weakened the magnetic attraction just enough for the whole aircraft to be able to tip backwards on the stand.

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13 hours ago, Vinnie said:

Cracking piece of work. We all know how difficult yellow can be.

Thanks.

That was Hannant's Xtracrylix Trainer Yellow, with Tamiya thinner, over a coat of light grey primer. It went on nicely. Here it is after I glossed it up for the decals. I'd certainly use it again.

Walrus-yellow.jpg

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On 8/12/2021 at 12:25 AM, tonyot said:

Looks superb wearing its demob suit,...... lovely Shagbat!

Thanks. Here it is in uniform:

l2246.jpg

Started out with the RAF as AQ-Z, in Air-Sea Rescue.

Grierson describes the refitting for the Antarctic as being so extensive they were effectively new aircraft.

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17 hours ago, Horatio Gruntfuttock said:

That's a stunner and thanks for giving us the heads-up of work that needs to be done on the kit.

Can I ask you what you used for the seascape? It looks top-notch in your shots.

Well done!!

Thanks.

It's a display base from a UK company called Coastal Kits.

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