Oregon’s famous exploding whale

Xenatuba’s comment on the Whale fall post has reminded me of one of the all time classic tales in Oregon history. In November 1970, a dead adult sperm whale washed up on the beach near Florence, causing no end of consternation about how to dispose of it. Since Oregon law defines the state’s beaches as public highways (a brilliant bit of lawmaking that makes it impossible for anyone to privately own a beach), that meant Oregon’s Highway Division had responsibility for the carcass disposal.

The Highway Division was full of men who were accustomed to using dynamite for removal of things that were in their way, such as mountains that a road was being built through. You know the old saying, “When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail”? Well, the dead whale looked like a nail to them. It made perfect sense that if they buried some dynamite beneath it, the carcass could be blown into smaller chunks which would then be magically removed by various detritivores such as gulls, crabs, etc.

Of course, since it was a big whale, they needed a big explosion. Being very thorough in their planning, they decided to use twenty cases of dynamite.

The rest is history.

Note for non-native English speakers: after the blast, the bystander commentary might be hard to discern due to the regional accents. A transcription:

“Wheee! Look at all that!”

“All right, Fred, you can take your hands out of your ears now.”


“Here come pieces of…my God!”


About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
This entry was posted in humor, Oregon. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Oregon’s famous exploding whale

  1. Alma says:

    LOL! “…they’ll certainly remember what not to do.” Yeah, here’s hoping.

  2. CathyW says:

    ow, my sides are sore from laughing. Love the reporters laconic style. Thanks for brightening up a miserable dank day

  3. Lilaine says:

    Same result as missing the nail with the hammer :
    Bloody parts, smashed in things, loud noise and exclamations(expletives, too) and the job is not done!
    All that having involved the same careful preparation and thorough planning required for nailing something! (If you know somebody who doesn’t at least think a little moment before using a hammer, flee as far as you can! …. Halloween persistent after-effect ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

  4. Jbrandao says:

    this is such a classic video

  5. Ana_รฑ says:

    What a story! Thank you both for sharing it!
    It is incredible to read about it, but having this video makes it the funniest thing.
    I guess it seemed a good idea at the time. And nobody got seriously hurt!?!

  6. Astrid says:

    OMG – are these the same kind of men who cut the branch of the tree they are sitting on? Unbelievable ๐Ÿ™‚

    • xenatuba says:

      Yes, they are. There is a grainy look at one red headed cop with a swivel holster running across one area. That guy became my sergeant for about 10 years…

      One fellow had “gone to watch” and to hear him tell it now, he knew the dynamite was a “bad idea” and was rewarded with having a large chunk of whale drop on his brand new car.

  7. xenatuba says:

    Thanks for posting this!

  8. Rain says:

    This is a classic indeed! Every now and then my brother and I discuss this whale and laugh as hard as the first time we’ve heard about it – which was “O homem que mordeu o cรคo” by Nuno Markl in Comercial radio. Great video on what not to do! lolol

  9. Dan Isaacs says:

    This video was one of the first viral videos in the history of the internet. I fondly recall first viewing it in digital form in the mid-90s, and trust it remains somewhere on my personal website. ๐Ÿ™‚

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