Machines of the Isle of Nantes or Les Machines de l’Île de Nantes are a set of gigantic mechanical animals designed by Francois Delarozière and Pierre Orefice as an artistic, touristic and cultural project based in Nantes, France. The project is a combination of the ‘invented worlds’ of Jules Verne, the mechanical universe of Leonardo da Vinci and the industrial history of Nantes, all located on the site where the shipyard activities of Nantes used to be.
Les Machines de l’Île features some remarkable machines like the Great Elephant, the Marine Worlds and the Heron Tree. The star attraction is the 12 meter tall mechanical elephant that can actually walk around the park taking passengers on its back. It lumbers, stamps its feet, flaps its leathery ears, trumpets vigorously and sprays water from its trunk soaking whoever is on its way. From the inside, the passengers are able to see the moving gears that power the legs. The elephant is actually a replica of one that featured in The Sultan’s Elephant, an unusual street show that took place in London in 2006.
This Marine Worlds Carrousel is almost 25m high and 22m of diameter and features 35 moving underwater creatures on three levels: the ocean floor, the depths, and sea and boats. Visitors are able to move about amidst a ballet of aquatic animals and sea carriages, as well as climb aboard and guide the movements of the Machines.
The Heron tree is a steel structure of 45 meters in diameter and 28 meters in height, topped with two herons. Visitors can climb onto the back of the mechanical birds and “fly” over the hanging gardens of the tree.
There is also a Machines Gallery which is an exhibition that illustrates the background story of the machines, and a workshop where you can see the various trades at work.