“Hey, remember when that giant whale exploded into a million disgusting pieces all over us? Why hasn’t that vomitous occasion ever been enshrined by a public park?”
For those of you who’ve ever asked that question, I have exceedingly wonderful news.
Nearly a half-century after Oregon blew up an 8-ton beached whale, check out the newest addition to the state’s coastal parks – Exploding Whale Memorial Park 🐳💥https://t.co/6MS9EBDK7T pic.twitter.com/zNh3A7m4fn
— Tristan Fortsch (@tristanCF) June 15, 2020
You’ll be pleased as punch to know you can now visit Florence, Oregon’s Exploding Whale Memorial Park.
For the uninitiated:
Nearly 50 years ago, a gigantic, dead whale washed up onto a Pacific Northwest shore and really stunk up the joint.
Officials were flummoxed — how do you bury an 8-ton titan?
Alternately, someone had a dynamite idea.
At the direction of the state’s highway division, demolitionists would complement the carcass with 20 cases of explosives in order to rupture the remains.
As per the plan, the mammoth mammal would be blasted to bits, serving up a bite-sized blubber buffet to craving crabs and binge-ready birds. Any loitering lobsters could also partake after putting on their special bibs.
The plan seemed perfect: Presto Change-O, so long, Cetacea.
Therefore, on November 12th, 1970, the corpse was crowded by a half-ton of TNT as a large group of onlookers and experts retreated to the Safe Zone and waited for the cadaver’s kaboom.
5, 4, 3, 2…
Then something horrible happened.
Technicians had misjudged the 45-foot marine monster’s blast radius.
Following a loud noise and a whale of a cloud, shards of Shamu shot all over the appalled audience.
Courtesy of the blowhole’d blast, spectating residents of the Beaver State got foamy faces full of sperm whale as it rained rotting and rancid remnants of Moby Dick.
A reporter for Portland’s KATU described the disaster at the time:
“The dynamite was buried primarily on the leeward side of the big mammal so as most of the remains would be blown toward the sea. About 75 bystanders — most of them residents who had first found the whale to be an object of curiosity before they tired of its smell — were moved back a quarter of a mile away. The sand dunes there were covered with spectators and land-lover newsmen — surely to become land-blubber newsmen when the blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds.”
People were shellacked by a shocking shower of putrid parts:
“Our camera stopped rolling immediately after the blast. The humor of the entire situation suddenly gave way to a run for survival as huge chunks of whale blubber fell everywhere. Pieces of meat passed high over our heads while others were falling at our feet. The dunes were rapidly evacuated as spectators escaped both the falling debris and the overwhelming smell.”
The carnage sought not only people, but property:
“A parked car over a quarter of a mile from the blast site was the target of one large chunk, the passenger compartment literally smashed.”
It was a bloodbath:
“Fortunately, no human was hit as badly as the car. However, everyone on the scene was covered with small particles of dead whale.”
As it turned out, the explosive approach was for the birds. Or wasn’t:
“[T]he seagulls who were supposed to clean things up were nowhere in sight, either scared away by the explosion or kept away by the smell. That didn’t really matter — the remaining chunks were of such a size that no respectable seagull would attempt to tackle anyway.”
A burial after all, then:
“As darkness began to set in, the highway crews were back on the beach burying the remains, including a large piece of the carcass which never left the blast site.”
Channel 2’s Paul Linnman wrapped up his report thusly:
“It might be concluded that, should a whale ever wash ashore…again, those in charge will not only remember what to do, they’ll certainly remember what not to do.”
Fast-forward to last Saturday, when a dedication ceremony christened Florence’s new Exploding Whale Memorial Park, a grassy good-time getaway along the Siuslaw River.
So if you’re ever in Lane County and hunting to harpoon the perfect picnic paradise, check out a little piece of heaven named for the guts-and-gore nightmare of a rotten rainstorm.
It’s a blast from the past.
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