Yes, there is such a thing as an exploding whale.
With all the talk about the possibility of a “whale of an explosion” (pun intended) coming out of Trout River, Newfoundland, I can’t but harken back to a news story out of Salem, Oregon.
Date line: November 12, 1970. Ahh, the ’70s. A much simpler time before the Internet and smartphones, when answers to difficult problems seemed somehow more direct, more clear cut.
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However even the simplest solutions can at times result in the most epic of fails.
A 45-foot-long sperm whale estimated to weigh eight tons had washed up on shore near Florence, Oregon and was becoming smellier by the day.
Fetid whale funk engulfed the town with the sea breeze. Obviously something had to be done.
The state highway division (now ODOT) had jurisdiction at the time over Oregon beaches. The chief engineer was away elk hunting and so engineer George Thorton stepped up to the plate.
After consulting with the Navy and munitions experts, a solution of 20 cases of dynamite was decided upon.
One thousand pounds of explosive was set on the land side of the stinky cetacean. The theory said it would be blown out to sea, providing a virtual gastronomical soiree for the seagulls and fish in the surrounding seaside.
Walter Umenhofer, a military veteran with explosives training, was at the macabre scene with his brand new Oldsmobile. He advised Mr. Thorton that 20 cases of dynamite was WAY wrong for the job and that it should be 20 sticks instead.
As we all know, newly found power can sometimes blind one to good counsel, and Mr. Thorton, with the bit between his teeth, was not interested in any advice that fateful November day.
The 75 or so spectators moved back to a dune about 800 feet away, and after the all clear, Mr. Thorton touched off the now infamous whale removal process.
“Oohs & Ahhs” were quickly replaced by screams as the onlookers were suddenly covered in decaying whale flesh.
Mr. Umenhofer’s new car was crushed by a falling piece of blubber a quarter of a mile away.
Millions of bits of steaming whale and more than a fair amount of flaming blubber carpeted the surrounding area and part of the town.
Now by golly, that’s the way to fail in my book. If you’re gonna do something, then do it right!
Hats off to Mr. Thorton and all those free thinkers of his day. They came, they saw, they screwed up royally.
Ever seen a bigger fail than that? Prove it in the comments.