A Whale Of A Time

A Whale Of A Time

The following pictures and words are the result of a couple hours' of procrastination. The words and pictures came from the local TV coverage of the event. The full three and a half minute video is just over 11 Meg: AVI, Quicktime.

Yes, it is real.


Paul Linnman, Reporter:

It had to be said, the Oregon state highway division not only had a whale of a problem on its hands, it had a stinky whale of a problem. What to do with one 45 foot, 8 ton whale, dead on arrival on a beach near Florence.

It had been so long since a whale had washed up in Lane County, no-one could remember how to get rid of one. In selecting its battle plan, the Highway Division decided the carcass couldn't be buried because it might soon be uncovered, it couldn't be cut up and then buried because no-one wanted to cut it up, and it couldn't be burned. So dynamite it was. Some 20 cases, or half ton of it.

The hope was that the long dead Pacific Grey 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. Indeed, the seagulls had been standing nearby all day. As everything was being made ready we asked George Thornton, the highway engineer in charge of the project, for his final observations.

George Thornton, State Highway Division:

Well, I'm confident that it'll work. The only thing is we're not sure just exactly how much explosives it'll take to disintegrate this thing so the scavengers, seagulls, crabs, and whatnot can clean it up.


Is there any chance that it might be more than a one day job?


Ah, if theres any large chunks left we may have to do some other cleanup, possibly set another charge.


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 landlubber newsmen, shortly to become land-blubber newsmen for the blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds.

Our cameras stopped rolling immediately after the blast, the humour 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.

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. Fortunately no human was hit as badly as the car, however everyone on the scene was covered with small particles of dead whale. As for the success of the effort, the seagulls who were supposed to clean things up were nowhere in sight, ether scared away by the explosion or kept away by the smell. It didn't really matter, the remaining chunks were of such a size that no respectable seagull would attempt to tackle anyway.

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. It might be concluded that should a whale ever wash ashore in Lane County again, those in charge will not only remember what to do, they'll certainly remember what not to do.