Helium Pig Chase

Helium Pig Chase

“On this day in 1976, a giant helium pig intended for a photo shoot for the English progressive rock band Pink Floyd escaped, bewildering pilots flying high above London, before finally going “”home,”” to a farm in Kent.

The pig was named Algie, and she was a colossal, 12-metre-long, helium-filled balloon designed by Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters and built by new media artist Jeffrey Shaw. She was to be flown over the Battersea Power Station on the Thames in London for a photo shoot for the cover of the group’s concept album, Animals, which imparted a scathing critique of the socio-political conditions of Britain in the 1970s. On day one of the three-day photo shoot, organisers had hired a marksman to shoot Algie down if things went awry, but the hulking sow wasn’t even launched. In the inevitable confusion that arises in organising a photo shoot involving an aging power station and a pig the size of a double-decker bus, organisers had forgotten, by day two, to book the marksman. With some effort, the porker was thrust over Battersea, tethered firmly to its chimneys, and the photo shoot commenced. Sensing her opportunity, Algie, aided by a strong gust of wind, broke free from the tethers and shot skywards, floating southwards over London. Within five minutes, she was out of sight. Moments later, Algie flew through the path of a passenger aircraft and terrified pilots flying over London reported close encounters with a giant swine. Flights to and from Heathrow were cancelled due to the flying pig the size of a small-aircraft. Algie enjoyed a brief flight over London before crash-landing, appropriately enough, at a farm in Kent, startling a few cows with her impressive girth.

Algie was recovered and repaired and the photo shoot resumed the next day–with considerably tighter tethers. Pink Floyd’s album cover eventually sported a composite image of Algie from day three of the shoot superimposed over the dark, brooding sky from day one of the shoot.

The album Animals was released in 1977 and went on to become a massive hit, reaching number two in the UK album charts and number three in America’s Billboard charts. It has since gone platinum four times.

As for Algie, she made repeat appearances on Pink Floyd’s In the Flesh tour, traveling the world with the band. She and other inflatable pigs became a Pink Floyd standby over the years, with the rock band trotting out black pigs with crossed hammers, warthog-like pigs with protruding tongues, and pigs with noticeable male anatomy.

Algie wasn’t the last pig to take flight–indeed, pigs have been flying ever since.”

Credit: © Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy
Caption: Algie tethered securely in place at the Battersea Power Station. The day before, she escaped to a farm in Kent.