Fate of Viking statue uncertain after being recovered from Schuylkill River

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Wednesday, October 3, 2018
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Vandalized viking statue pulled from the river: Sarah Bloomquist reports on Action News at 6 p.m., October 2, 2018

FAIRMOUNT PARK (WPVI) -- The fate of a 100-year-old Viking statue is uncertain after it was pulled from its location at Boathouse Row and hauled into the Schuylkill River.

The Philadelphia Police Marine Unit lifted the bronze statue, and its head which fell off, out of the water on Tuesday evening.

At some point the night before, police say the statue of Thorfinn Karlsefni was taken down and tossed into the river, much to the dismay of so many who pass by it each day.

"Oh, it's horrible!" said Powelton resident Sarah Hicks. "I know its twin is in Reykjavik because I saw it when I was there, but I can't believe anybody would do it because it's a great statue."

Karlsefni was an Icelandic explorer thought to have visited the Americas as early as 1004 A.D. The statue was erected at its Boathouse Row spot in 1920.

It's not the first time the statue has been targeted by vandals. This same time last year, the figure's face was spray-painted red and anti-Nazi language was written on it, along with the anarchy symbol.

Days later, white supremacists gathered at the site, but were met by many more counter-protesters.

Artist Douglas Martensen was responsible for the painstaking job of restoring the statue last year.

"I've worked on statues in the city of Philadelphia for 30 years and we have never seen this, ever. It's unbelievable to see something that was used as a symbol for another issue," Martensen said.

Underwater footage showed the sculpture sitting on the floor of the river prior to it before recovered.

"It's just really a destructive act that is pretty unfortunate. It ends up costing the taxpayers a good bit of money to actually pull it out of the water, conserve it, and make sure that it's safe," Public Art Director Margot Berg said.

Berg says they may not bring the statue back to its current location.

Crews worked through the afternoon to salvage what they could of the statue and cover the exposed base. On Tuesday afternoon, a bicyclist found a crowbar near the scene and handed it over to police.

Some have speculated the incident could be related to the upcoming NFL game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings. Police say there is nothing to indicate that is the case.

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