Here’s a question: What do you do if a dead sperm whale accidentally washes onto the local beach shore?
That was the problem faced by the Oregon Highway Division in November of 1970. They knew that they couldn’t just bury the whale, because scavengers would dig up the corpse, and the thing weighed nearly eight tons, so they couldn’t haul it away. The Oregon Highway Division is known for its preponderance of bad backs. After some deliberation, they finally decided to use dynamite to blow the remains up. The idea was to break the whale into tiny bite-sized pieces, which would then be eaten by the seagull population (who are notoriously fastidious about such things).
The local Channel 2 News team heard about the planned detonation, and so decided to film it for a special segment. A small crowd of onlookers gathered as well, because, let’s face it, how often does a person get to see something like this occur? George Thornton (the engineer in charge) laid out twenty cases of dynamite, ordered everyone to keep a safe distance, and after a short countdown, gave the fateful order. The sperm whale immediately exploded, and there were numerous cheers as pieces of the gargantuan carcass were launched skyward at incredible speeds.
That’s when the cries of horror began. Huge chunks of rotting whale meat started to rain down upon the scattered crowd, forcing them to flee in horror. Cars as far as a quarter of a mile away were hit by the putrescent blubber, splattering windows and in one case, smashing the passenger compartment. Plus, if you hadn’t guessed, the smell of exploded whale meat never comes out. Eventually, the terror ended, but not before a startling revelation had occurred to everyone there present – blowing up a whale with dynamite is an extraordinarily bad idea. Also, that people are stupid.
There is a website dedicated to the incident at The Exploding Whale. You can see video footage of the disintegrating whale, find newspaper articles on the subject, and even read about other whales that have exploded. Sad to say, it’s a more common phenomenon that one might think.