The History of The Neptune Statue
A Story of Engineering and Creativity
Over 30 years ago, local sculptor Wayne Edwards approached Greenwood Development Co., owners of Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, with a four-foot clay model and an ambitious idea.
He’d conceived a larger-than-life statue of Neptune, God of the Sea, whose trident would serve as a sundial. It was the tallest statue the sculptor had made to-date and he had no idea where it would live.
Luckily, 27 feet of space overlooking the stunning marina at Shelter Cove would prove to be the perfect location. Neptune could look out over his realm and the beautiful entry to the marina, and there was no worry of surrounding buildings disrupting the sundial with shadows.
The Neptune statue at Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina is the world’s largest working sundial and its fusion of art and engineering make it completely unique.
A Work of Art
It took Wayne Edwards over a year to design, sculpt, and cast the Neptune statue. The artwork is a 12-foot tall Neptune, Roman God of the Sea, poised to strike with his trident held above his head on a 26-foot circular base. The trident serves as the hand of a clock as its shadow is cast upon the base of the statue, telling the time.
It was cast in bronze at Johnson’s Atelier, a foundry in Princeton, New Jersey, and the 3,000-pound statue was then shipped to Hilton Head Island by truck.
A dedication to the completed functional artwork was held on August 11, 1983.
A Scientific Feat
The accuracy of the sundial feature of the Neptune statue depended upon some precise calculations. Having never created a sundial before, Edwards enlisted the help of experts Frank Yerkes and Richard Hamilton of the engineering firm Sea Island Engineering, now known as Sea Island Land Survey LLC.
In order for the statue to tell the correct time, it needed to face Due South. To determine the exact positioning, Edwards, Yerkes, and Hamilton headed to Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina to gaze at the stars.
“We had to find true North and South by aligning the pointers of Ursula Major (the Big Dipper) with Polaris (the North Star) and Cassiopeia,” Yerkes told the Island Packet back in 1983. “That demanded a good bit of clear sky and a lot of patience.”
It’s a good thing the team had patience, because clear skies proved to be a bit of a problem. The team had to meet four nights in a row before the skies cooperated and were clear enough to gather the data they needed. The team calculated the angles and measurements several times to make sure their numbers were accurate. After all, moving a 12-foot sculpture that weighs over one ton is not something you want to do more than once!
A Symbol of Shelter Cove
For 35 years Neptune and his mighty trident has stood watch over Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina, and has become a symbol of the area so much so that it’s hard to think of the space without it! It’s where locals and visitors gather to celebrate, whether it’s Music & Taste, HarbourFest, or the Fourth of July. It’s a picture-perfect photo op. It’s the symbol of the marina.
“It was as if I was meant to design what I did for that location,” Edwards has said. The Neptune Statue came together with the help of collaboration, creativity and engineering know-how—and maybe perhaps even a little divine intervention.