November 12

1970 A whale explodes

In November 1970 a 45-foot sperm whale corpse was found on a beach near Florence, Oregon. Officials were puzzled about how to dispose of 8 tons of decomposing flesh until one genius from the state’s Highway Division hit upon the idea of surrounding the dead cetacean with explosive material and blowing it to smithereens.

Despite the warning from a local demolition expert that a mere 20 sticks or 8.4 pounds of dynamite would suffice, officials settled on 20 cases (a half-ton). The result was spectacular. Pieces of the unfortunate mammal rained down on horrified spectators. Particularly unlucky was the fellow who had recommended the smaller amount — his brand-new car, just purchased from a dealership offering “A Whale of a Deal”, was flattened by a massive chunk of blubber.

This hilarious disaster might have been forgotten but for a piece by humorist Dave Barry 25 years later. A video of the explosion went viral and made the episode famous.

In 2020, residents of Florence voted to name a new recreational area “Exploding Whale Memorial Park” in honor of the incident.

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