That Time They Blew Up A Whale On The Oregon Coast

The Nobel Prize is one of the most prestigious awards a person can earn. Among its many recipients, it is an honor won by chemists, physicists, and authors who have contributed vast amounts of tireless work to shaping the world we live in, and for their efforts in paving the way for humanity to move forward. The prize is named after its benefactor, Alfred Nobel, who, among a great many other things, was noted for his revolutionary invention that oftentimes literally helps to shape our world: dynamite. 

Most often used in construction, demolition, or by Wile E. Coyote, dynamite quickly became a necessary tool for making large things go away very quickly. Although it would eventually be used as a weapon, dynamite was commonly used to blast rock underwater or to carve away tunnels. That is, at least, until November 12, 1970, when local authorities in Florence, OR, realized Mr. Nobel's invention could be put to another use: blowing up the rotting carcass of a beached whale. What followed became one of the most bizarre urban legends in American history.

  • They Captured The Whole Thing On Video
    Video: YouTube

    They Captured The Whole Thing On Video

    Nowadays, it's easy to quickly capture footage of the world around us. We can document anything as fast as we can whip out our phones. But flash back half a century, and there was no YouTube or Vimeo. Instead, the only thing people had was word of mouth to relay what they had seen. 

    Thankfully, the authorities at Oregon's Department of Transportation believed that such an absolutely insane event had to be documented. Therefore, they invited the news crew from Portland's KATU Channel 2 to film what was surely going to be one of the most bizarre spectacles Oregonians had ever seen. 

    What was captured that day eventually became one of the country's oldest urban legends: the day a whale was blown into thousands of pieces, and scattered along the coast of Florence, Oregon. Since then, the video has gone viral, racking up over 2.5 million views.

  • A Half-Ton Of Dynamite Was Used To Blow Up The Whale
    Photo: Avalon_Mists / Pixabay / Public Domain

    A Half-Ton Of Dynamite Was Used To Blow Up The Whale

    It's no surprise that even one stick of dynamite can do some serious damage, but there isn't an exact science when it comes to clearing out the dead remains of a sperm whale that weighed eight tons.

    Still, that didn't stop authorities from using their best guesstimate of a half-ton's worth of explosive materials to "clear" the whale from the beach. With the massive creature's 45-foot-long body rigged with enough dynamite to take out a full-sized home, all that was left to do was hit the detonator. 

  • Chunks Of Whale Blubber Flattened A Car
    Photo: Pexels / Pixabay / Public Domain

    Chunks Of Whale Blubber Flattened A Car

    This probably won't come as a surprise, but human tissue does not hold up well when dealing with explosions. As for the blubber from a massive sperm whale? Well, instead of just imagining, you can actually see for yourself from the footage taken of the actual detonation, as the "blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds," per Channel 2's Paul Linnman.

    Not only was the beach covered in whale viscera, but a nearby sedan was flattened so far as to resemble a four-door convertible.

  • The Whale's Stench Was Unbearable
    Photo: BirdEl / Pixabay / Public Domain

    The Whale's Stench Was Unbearable

    When the beached whale was initially discovered, authorities believed seagulls and various other animals would eventually pick apart its dead carcass. The problem, however, was that the stench from the animal turned into an absolute nightmare for everyone in the area, as anyone driving up the coast could pick up the smell from roughly a mile away.

  • Dozens Of Spectators Gathered To Witness The Explosion
    Photo: Susanna Haas / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Dozens Of Spectators Gathered To Witness The Explosion

    Blowing up a rotting whale carcass isn't something that happens everyday, so Florence locals naturally flocked to witness the bizarre spectacle happening in their town. From about a quarter-mile away, dozens of people gathered for the monumental occasion - but little did they know what they were getting into. 

    Once the dynamite was detonated, the onlookers scattered for cover as large chunks of whale blubber went sailing into the air, some as high as 100 feet. Thankfully, no one was injured by any errant pieces of foul-smelling whale viscera rocketing across the shore.

  • The Man Behind It Refused To Talk About It For Years
    Photo: KATU Channel 2 / Wikimedia Commons

    The Man Behind It Refused To Talk About It For Years

    Let's face it: most of us will never have to remove the body of a large whale from a beach, so it's hard to say exactly what we would do in that situation. Using a crane certainly sounds like an option - at least, a more respectable one. After all, if they can move something as large as a plane, a sperm whale shouldn't be too much of a problem, right? 

    But at the end of the day, George Thornton believed it best to use dynamite and simply turn his big problem into thousands of little flying problems. The incident gained such notoriety, that Thornton refused to speak of it for many years, only remarking later that "it blew up in my face." Well, technically, it blew up in many faces that day.