Thieves de-tentacle the Kraken

One of the City of Oak Harbor’s most controversial pieces of artwork has been de-tentacled.

It could be a difficult case to crack.

One of the City of Oak Harbor’s most controversial pieces of artwork has been de-tentacled.

Someone has stolen the tentacle from the kraken sculpture.

The Oak Harbor Police, notified Tuesday of the theft by a city employee, is asking for the public’s help to locate the 4-foot hammered copper tentacle that once wrapped around a pole near the intersection of SE Pioneer Way and City Beach Street.

The detached limb was part of the bronze giant octopus sculpture the city paid $33,000 for an Oregon artist to construct.

The public art was installed in February 2015, including the tentacle that climbed a pole across the street from the sea monster, giving the illusion that it had traveled underneath the road.

Someone shattered that illusion, leaving police to seek public input on the tentacle’s possible whereabouts.

“At that particular intersection, we don’t have a camera,” Oak Harbor Police Chief Ed Greens said. “We’re very dependent on someone seeing something.”

Skip Pohtilla, chairman of the city’s Art Commission, said he noticed something bare about that intersection around the one-year anniversary of the kraken’s installation in late February, then did a double-take, noticing that the largest of two tentacles was gone.

He contacted the city’s senior planner, Cac Kamak, and the matter was discussed at the art commission’s March meeting.

“I think it’s probably gone for good,” Pohtilla said, adding the cost of both tentacles were several thousand dollars. “It’s upsetting. The city paid for it. It’s the citizens of Oak Harbor’s artwork. Somebody who took it is taking it from the entire community. It’s just not right for them to deface public property like that.”

The kraken project drew criticism from the start as it depicted the giant octopus swallowing a Nautilus submarine in a city so closely affiliated with Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

Former mayor Scott Dudley voiced his disapproval of the art, which like other public art pieces in the city, are funded by a 0.25 percent utility tax on water, sewer and garbage.

Others like the sea creature, inspired by the giant octopus in Jules Verne’s 1870 novel, “Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.”

“Who’s not a Jules Verne fan?” Green said. “Personally, I like it. I like art being incorporated into the city environment. I think it enhances the environment around the city.”

Copper theft is a widespread problem and Pohtilla suspects that’s the reason for the tentacle’s disappearance.

“What’s a little concerning is folks who accept copper for recycling are supposed to certify where the copper comes from, something of that nature,” Pohtilla said. “That’s obviously not a random piece of property.”

“It’s going to be real obvious,” Green said.

Anyone with knowledge of the missing art piece may notify Oak Harbor police by calling the department’s non-emergency line at 360-679-9567.