When one moves to a new state, it’s kind of like marrying into a family, and hearing all of the old stories at Thanksgiving that are guaranteed to embarrass its protagonists, over and over every year. It wasn’t long after moving to Oregon that we got wind of this one, the notorious exploding whale on the beach in Florence. And now that its Oregon Dept. of Transportation protagonist has passed away, we can retell it again, knowing that he won’t be embarrassed this time.
Here’s the video of that fateful decision by George Thornton, an ODOT engineer, to deal with a giant beached dead sperm whale by blowing it up, with the intended effect of dispersing its carcass so that scavengers would feed on the tiny chunks. Sightseers were kept a quarter mile away, but that wasn’t nearly far enough as they’re covered with bits of flying goo. Fortunately, none were hit by the larger chunks, unlike the brand new Olds 98 in the parking lot. Well, the rest is history, and Thornton’s ill-fated explosion went viral on the internet before that term was properly coined.
Thornton declined for decades to talk about the mishap, except to say that “it blew up in my face”.