The Incredible Exploding Whale

With all that has happened/is happening in 2020, most of us are looking forward to moving into a new year. But not every event was bad. The city of Florence on the Oregon coast dedicated a new park.

To generate enthusiasm for the park’s opening, the city solicited suggestions from the public for its name. A hundred and twenty submissions were winnowed to nine that were submitted to the public for a vote. The winner: “Exploding Whale Memorial Park.

Fifty years ago a sperm whale washed up on the beach at Florence. The eight-ton, forty-five-foot-long carcass soon began to smell like, well, like a dead whale. Engineers at the Oregon State Highway Division decided the most efficient solution was with dynamite. They figured a half-ton would be enough dynamite to pulverize it into pieces that would quickly be washed away into the ocean and “scavengers, seagulls, and crabs and whatnot can clean it up.”
The result was what humorist Dave Barry called “the most wonderful event in the history of the universe.”

Spectators gathered on November 12, 1970 to witness the great event. Kept a quarter mile way, they cheered as the detonated explosives created a hundred-foot-tall geyser of blood, blubber and sand. But the strategically-placed dynamite didn’t send it all toward the ocean. “It was like a blubber snowstorm with tiny particles of blubber floating down after the big chunks,” according to a newspaper reporter who witnessed it. The fleeing spectators reported no injuries, but a three-foot chunk of whale did crush a parked car.

And the smell hung in the air for days.

Since then deceased sea life on the beaches is not blown up; it’s buried.

Post script: November 12, 1970 is an auspicious date for another reason. Tonya Harding was born that day.

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