The Expoding Whale ► Throwback Thursday

It hardly seems like 45 years ago, but November 12, 1970 was a whale of a day.

It happens all the time: a dead whale washes up on shore, threatening to stink up the joint unless something is done. But what?

When a a sperm whale washed up on the beach at Florence, Oregon, the authorities sprung into action. As the WikiWackyWoo explains, they left it up to rank amateurs:

All Oregon beaches are under the jurisdiction of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department,[3]
but in 1970, Oregon beaches were technically classified as state
highways, so responsibility for disposing of the carcass fell upon the
Oregon Highway Division (now known as the Oregon Department of Transportation, or ODOT).[4] After consulting with officials from the United States Navy,
they decided that it would be best to remove the whale the same way as
they would remove a boulder. They thought burying the whale would be
ineffective as it would soon be uncovered, and believed dynamite would
disintegrate the whale into pieces small enough for scavengers to clear up.

Thus, half a ton of dynamite was applied to the carcass. The engineer
in charge of the operation, George Thornton, stated—on camera, in an
interview with Portland newsman Paul Linnman—that he wasn’t exactly sure
how much dynamite would be needed. (Thornton later explained that he
was chosen to remove the whale because the district engineer, Dale
Allen, had gone hunting).[5][6]


As it happened, there was an expert on the scene, but no one listened:

Coincidentally, a military veteran from Springfield with explosives
training, Walter Umenhofer, was at the scene scoping a potential
manufacturing site for his employer.[1]
Umenhofer later told The Springfield News reporter Ben Raymond Lode
that he had warned Thornton that the amount of dynamite he was using was
very wrong—when he first heard that 20 cases were being used he was in
disbelief. He had known that 20 cases of dynamite was far too much
dynamite to be used. Instead of 20 cases they needed 20 sticks of
dynamite. Umenhofer said Thornton was not interested in the advice. In
an odd coincidence, Umenhofer’s brand-new Oldsmobile was flattened by a
chunk of falling blubber after the blast. He told Lode he had just
bought the Ninety-Eight Regency at Dunham Oldsmobile in Eugene, during
the “Get a Whale of a Deal” promotion.[1]

You can’t make this shit up, even tho’ some people accuse Wikipedia of doing so.

Meanwhile, exploding whales are not that uncommon. Watch:

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.

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