Remember When An Oregon Town Blew Up A Beached Whale With A 1,000 Pounds Of Dynamite Back In 1970?

Exploding whale

This seems like a sketch show…

Back in November of 1970, a major problem washed up on the shores of Florence, Oregon.

According to the Oregon Encyclopedia, a 45 foot, 8 ton dead sperm whale was brought in by the tide and left to rot on the beach. This initially intrigued locals, but they soon realized it was going to be a pretty big issue due to the smell of thousands of pounds of decaying flesh and blubber.

Due to some strange jurisdiction rules, the beaches at the time were under the management of the Oregon Highway Division (now named the Oregon Department of Transportation), so marine biologists were not involved in the solution planning, which ended up giving us one of the wildest scenes imaginable.

Assistant District Highway Engineer George Thornton was assigned to lead the whales disposal and came up with a very unique method.

He decided to treat the whale like a boulder, meaning the protocol for removal is dynamite. Lots of dynamite…

On November 12th, 1970, the team packed a half-ton of explosives on one side of the whale, hoping the blast would disintegrate the carcass into small bits which would then be eaten by seagulls, crabs, and other critters.

Spectators gathered on sand dunes a quarter mile away, unsure of what to expect, but quite certain they would be well out of harms way if anything went awry.

These were allegedly professionals after all…

But when the blast went off, they couldn’t have been further from the truth.

The beach exploded in a 100 foot tall cloud of sand and whale parts, sending large and small pieces of the animal soaring well over a quarter of a mile from the detonation sight, raining bits of whale down on the people and surrounding property.

One car was hit with a big chunk, flattening the roof and shattering the windows. Fortunately, no people were injured, but maybe even worse than being covered in blubber was the overwhelming smell, which lingered in the area for days afterwards.

Paul Linnman of KATU News gave perhaps the greatest news line ever spoken during his broadcast.

“The blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds”

I mean WHAT?

I’ve never dealt with a beached whale removal before, but you’ve got to be kidding me, blowing it up? With a HALF TON of dynamite? That’s outrageous.

You’re telling me they couldn’t have gotten on the phone with any other beach town and ask how they handle these things? Couldn’t have done some research on other state’s policies?

And why in the world is the highway patrol in charge of beaches? Who put that law into place?

There’s a lot going on here, but one thing is for certain: It’s absolutely hysterical.

Can you imagine the feeling in George Thornton’s stomach when the dust settled and he saw that not only was there still a sizable chunk of the whale that hadn’t moved, but that parts that did carried way, way farther and less controlled than anticipated.

Sadly, George passed away in 2013, having worked almost 40 years for the ODOT from 1947 until his retirement in 1984. He remained adamant through his old age that the news was too harsh on him for the decision, which actually only fell into his lap due to some of his colleagues conveniently planning to go deer hunting.

Regardless of anything else, George gave the world an all-time classic story that we fortunately have incredible footage of, or it may just have been too good to be true.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock