Have you ever wondered what they (whoever “they” is) do to get rid of deceased whales that wash up on the beach?
The most common modern day methods are to bury the beached whale deep beneath the sand, or to tow the carcass of the massive mammal out to sea to allow for it to decompose naturally. However, the answer wasn’t apparently that simple back in 1970’s, which lead to a “whale” of a disaster.
Thanks to this old news story that is currently making its rounds on social media, we are getting to see a learning lesson that took place over 50 years ago in Florence, Oregon. The community there was met with a problem, and one that they weren’t sure how to solve.
A massive 45-foot, 8 ton Great Pacific Whale washed up on the beach, and as the classic newsman’s voice says in the video below, no one in the area was really sure how to handle it. The Oregon Highway Division partnered with the U.S. Navy and working together, they both determined that the best way to dispose of the whale was to blow it up with dynamite.
So, a large crew began digging and burying the explosives under the side of the whale that was opposite of the ocean, hoping that the blast would send most of whale’s remains back out into the water. It seemed as though there was a lot of guesswork in the entire process, but that didn’t appear to bother the man that was overseeing the removal of the carcass.
George Thornton, the highway engineer that was in charge of the whale’s removal, had this to say when the news channel interviewed him shortly before the blast was to be set off:
“Well, I’m confident that it’ll work. The only thing is, we’re not sure just exactly how much explosives it will take to disintegrate this thing so the scavengers, seagulls, and crabs and what not can clean it up.”
The plan was to use so much dynamite, it would practically leave no trace of the whale behind, and anything large that wasn’t disintegrated would be launched out of sight and out of mind into the sea.
If there was anything left afterwards, the bright minds at the Oregon Highway Division (not sure why they were handling it in the first place) and the U.S. Navy hoped that wildlife in the area would dispose of the rest.
The time came for the whale’s detonation, and those in charge of the project made sure that everyone in the area (even spectators that came to witness the explosion) were a quarter of a mile away. In the video below, you’ll see the countdown overlayed onto the screen taking the footage all the way down to when the whale got blown to kingdom come.
Those in the area witnessing the explosion laughed at the absurdity of the whale being detonated, but only for a moment. The lightheartedness of the event quickly shifted to terror when large chunks of whale began falling from the sky, endangering those that came to watch for fun.
Luckily, no one got hurt, though one person that had drove to the site was forced to make what is likely one of the most odd insurance claim phone calls the world has ever seen. As you’ll see in the post below, significant damage was done to someone’s vehicle when a five-foot long whale chunk came hurtling out of the sky and right onto the top of the car that was parked 1/4 of a mile away:
“A five-foot chunk of the whale hit a new Oldsmobile that spectator Walter Umenhofer had bought at a dealer’s “whale of a deal” promotion.
Due to the physical damage and the smell that permeated the car, insurance covered the full retail value of the Olds.”
A five-foot chunk of the whale hit a new Oldsmobile that spectator Walter Umenhofer had bought at a dealer’s “whale of a deal” promotion. Due to the physical damage and the smell that permeated the car, insurance covered the full retail value of the Olds.#ExplodingWhaleDaypic.twitter.com/f78VCIS0Q1
And that wasn’t the only issue from the aftermath of the questionable whale explosion…
The video states that the seagulls that were supposed to help naturally “clean up” the remains of the whale were scared away by the blast, and the chunks that did remain were too large for any predator or scavenger to mess with on their own.
Highway crews spent the rest of the day after the blast burying the remainder of the whale, including a large part of the carcass that never moved during the detonation sequence. The method of burying the whale, which they said they didn’t want to do in the first place, was what the crews eventually had to go with, even though now it was more widespread and complicated.
The closing line of the broadcast of the news story regarding the whale pretty much sums up the whole ordeal perfectly:
“It might be concluded that should a whale ever wash ashore in Lane county again, those in charge will remember not only what to do, they’ll certainly remember what not to do.”
#OTD in 1970, the Oregon Highway Division consulted with the U.S. Navy and decided the best way to dispose of a whale carcass was to blow it up with a 1/2 ton of dynamite. The explosion caused blubber to rain down on spectators for over a 1/4 of a mile. The TV segment is classic. pic.twitter.com/3NtWWaXpiR