Between a global pandemic, a monumental presidential election, and countless memorable news stories, it feels like 2020 is making history on an almost daily basis. If you'd like to have a brief - and bizarre - distraction from the events of this year, the anniversary of a unique news event might help. Thursday, November 12th marked the 50th anniversary of the Oregon whale explosion, a unique and fascinating event that has captivated parts of the nation in the half-century since. A newly-remastered news report from Oregon's KATU News recently made its way online, chronicling the event in stunning and macabre detail.
The "whalesplosion" saga began on November 9, 1970, when a 45-foot long, eight-ton sperm whale washed its way ashore in Florence, Oregon. The Oregon Highway Division (which technically presided over the state's beaches) was soon advised by the United States Navy to take care of the animal in an unconventional way -- using dynamite.
"The hope was that the long-dead Pacific gray whale would be almost disintegrated by the blast, and that any small pieces still around after the explosion would be taken care of by seagulls and other scavengers," KATU's Paul Linnman explains in the video clip.
Through a series of events, those tasked with blowing up the whale ended up amassing 20 cases (or half a ton) of dynamite. As the video shows, that amount of dynamite took the ordeal into an entirely new direction, exploding the whale and causing it to rain down on the technicians, reporters, and onlookers in the immediate area.
“Our cameras stopped rolling immediately after the blast,” Linnman continues. “The humor of the entire situation suddenly gave way to a run for survival as huge chunks of whale blubber fell everywhere.”
As the video shows, the whale's remains ended up making a pretty profound impact, with large pieces of blubber damaging nearby cars, and the birds that the Highway Patrol had hoped for were nowhere in sight.
In the decades since the whale explosion originally occurred, it has grown into a bit of an urban legend. This notoriety first began thanks to a memorable column from Dave Barry in a 1990 issue of Miami Herald, which had unintentionally sparked interest after leading some to believe that the event had just occurred. The KATU report has since become a viral video, and the whole ordeal has been parodied in pop culture several times over. Earlier this year, the citizens of Florence even voted to name a park in honor of the ordeal, with the "Exploding Whale Memorial Park" being formally opened in June.