Happy Exploding Whale Day!

The One True bIX

Foom1In every site's time there comes a moment. A moment when seriousness must be cast aside in favor of proudly announcing, "And now for something completely different." This is that moment.

Yes, it's that time of year again. Time to cast our gaze backward into our state's illustrious past (see, this is Oregon-related) and fondly remember that fine November 12 in 1970 whose events will forever live on in infamy.

It happened on November 12, 1970. The carcass of a sperm whale had been rotting on the beach just south of Florence, OR for several days. At the time, the Oregon Highway Division (now called the Oregon Department of Transportation) had jurisdiction over beaches and decided to dispose of the whale the same way they would clear a large boulder from a highway construction project. The rest is history.

Once believed to be nothing more than an urban legend, it came to the attention of the nation through a column by Dave Barry, which circulated via the Internet.

But what also circulated the Internet was the video file (mov) of a KATU news report by Paul Linnman -- from the scene of the incident itself, filmed during the incident itself (there's also now an annotated transcript). You can read a story on this from KATU itself:

Anything left over, officials reasoned, would be taken care of by seagulls and other scavengers.

The KATU cameras stopped rolling immediately after the blast, but Linnman recalls making his way out of the area as huge chunks of blubber fell everywhere.

A parked car over a quarter of a mile from the blast site was the target of one last chunk. Fortunately, no one was hurt as badly as the car. However, everyone was covered with small particles of dead whale.

Paul Linnman, in fact, has written a book which takes its title from this event. And be sure to check the newsletter article from the Oregon Department of Transportation from 1994, and an old 25th anniversary article from The Register-Guard.

Once upon a time (well, okay, two years ago) I tried to proclaim November 12 as the Feast of the Exploding Whale, despite being unable to determine just what one would do to celebrate such a holiday. Were this New York, rather than, Oregon, I could visit a Carvel, purchase a Fudgie the Whale cake, and smash it Gallagher-style with a sledgehammer.

Instead, I'll leave it open for comment here. What will you be doing for Exploding Whale Day this year?

Comments

  • (Show?)

    what a nice counterbalance to this week's other somewhat obscure yet famous anniversary--The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Somehow this marine story is a touch more lighthearted. !

  • (Show?)

    Definitely read the book, it is hilarious. It will take you back to an interesting time and also will give you a great look behind the scenes of print and broadcast news back then. Sort like a smoke free Good Night, Good Luck without the craven Republican fearmongering and shamelessness. It's a great slice of Portland and Paul Linnman is a fine writer.

  • Steve (unverified)
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    A favor -- please update your link to the EW video file to this page:

    http://www.theexplodingwhale.com/evidence/the-video/

    The current link is not guaranteed to always be there. The URL/link above will always offer links to multiple download sites.

  • (Show?)

    i'm the parent responsible for organizing this, so i know this to be true and not an urban legend: the Corvallis High School band works concessions at OSU home football games, a totally fun fundraiser yup nothing beats 7 hours of standing on concrete on a Saturday afternoon in November while the home team gets its orange and black ass kicked by Arizona; and based on the hot dogs & polish sausage we sell, i think i know where you can go to feast on exploded whale by-products. the polish sausages, in particular, have a yummy blubberiness that can only be the magical result of processing dead whale (and other mammals) with dynomite. come on by and celebrate your true Oregoniness.

    and btw, go Ducks.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)
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    Dear God!

    Will this whale story ever end?

    Or am I just blubbering?

    Oh well. Thanks Bix (we miss you) and Happy Anniversary Paul and Doug -- the guys who shot and reported it and will never let anyone in town forget about it.

  • ss (unverified)
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    Exploding Whale Day, hmmm ...How 'bout a giant whale pinata with something other than candy inside? Not likely to catch on and grow like Burning Man but could be fun for all ages. Since the story seems the essence of the memory, perhaps story-telling in small groups around campfires could be the preview or follow up to the pinata moment. Throw in some dancing and a wise word from the spirit of the whale and then wind down without turning event into commercial extravaganza.

  • (Show?)

    Perhaps this holiday could be coupled with some sort of tribute to Neil Goldschmidt.

  • (Show?)

    C'mon folks...that's funny!

  • John McCauley (unverified)
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    I HEARD ABOUT PAUL LINNMAN'S BOOK ON NPR & THOUGHT IT WAS ABOUT THE EXPLODING WHALE EVENT I WITNESSED IN THE SUMMER OF 1970. I DEAD WHALE WAS ON A BEACH IN SOUTHERN OREGON. THE BEACH WAS CLEARED AND THE EXPLOSIVES WENT OFF. THE WHALE SIMPLY ROSE INTO THE AIR ABOUT 50 FT, OR SO, AND CAME DOWN LOOKING PRETTY MUCH THE SAME. I HAVE A PHOTO. I WA 17 YEARS OLD. DOES ANYONE REPEMBER THIS EVENT?

  • Sid Leader (unverified)
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    I'll go along with the Neil gag, Jacko, but only if we give the victim's family the "Rip Van Winkle Sleepy Yuppie Parents of the Century" award too.

    I hear Mom's a real piece of work, especially considering her Daddy abused the victim as a grade school girl. So says Eugene Register-Guard and Willamette Week.

    Makes her family as bad, maybe worse, than Neil, IMHO.

    p.s. My best to your very cute and very hot law students, Jacko. Oh, how we miss the old days, huh?

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