November 12, 1970
Florence, Oregon
A dead sperm whale is removed from a beach with dynamite; the resulting carnage rained down upon spectators though none were harmed

The 8-ton (7.25-metric ton) carcass of the whale washed ashore a week before the disposal of the remains, and the Oregon Department of Transportation was tasked with finding a way to remove the rotting animal. Because of the state of decomposition, dismemberment was not an option, nor was transportation and burial. Burning the body was also out of the question, as the whale’s size and high fat content made cremation impossible.

The only remaining option was explosives.

The whale carcass
via Statesman Journal

The plan was to blow the carcass into essentially a fine mist of whale blood and fat, and any remaining small chunks would be cleared away naturally by the local ecosystem’s scavengers. A hole was dug in the sand beneath the whale and 20 50-pound cases of dynamite (a combined 1000 lbs. or 454 kg) placed in the hole. With the spectacle growing an impressive crowd of press and curious citizens, the dynamite was ignited.

A frame from the video of the explosion
via The Oregon Historical Society

The explosion seemed to work flawlessly. At least, it appeared that way until large chunks of blubber, flesh, and fins began to drop around the crowd. One particularly large piece landed atop Walter Umenhofer’s new car (pictured) and completely caved in the roof. Thankfully, no one was hurt or killed from the airborne whale chunks.

The aftermath of the explosion

Newscasters from Portland’s KATU were on the scene and managed to capture the now-infamous exploding whale. A short documentary explores the explosion and eye witness accounts of those at the scene, which can be seen here (the explosion occurs around 3:10. Warning: it is somewhat graphic).

The explosion also has its own webpage dedicated solely to it and those involved in the incident, available at http://theexplodingwhale.com.

Sources:
“It’s Really Hard to Get Rid of Dead Whales.” The Atlantic. January 25, 2014. Accessed: November 12, 2019. https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/01/its-really-hard-get-rid-dead-beached-whales/357042/https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/01/its-really-hard-get-rid-dead-beached-whales/357042/
Bacon, Larry. “Beached whale: Thar she blows!” The Register-Guard [Eugene, Oregon]. November 12, 1995
“A lot of whale.” Dixon Evening Telegraph. November 16, 1970

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