Sometimes beached whales erupt on their own, but sometimes humans blow them up first—as was the case in Florence, Oregon, in 1970. The town of Florence may have been the first to confront the dilemma that faces Trout River today.
Oregon officials thought their whale was too big to cut up or burn; they ended up hiring a highway engineer named Paul Thornton, from the state’s transportation department, to devise a plan. Thornton decided on using dynamite to blast the whale to bits. He figured that the blown-up pieces of blubber would scatter into the sea and whatever remained would be scavenged by birds and crabs…
In an obituary for Thornton, who died in October 2013, Elizabeth Chuck of NBC News describes what happened that day:
Bystanders were moved back a quarter of a mile before the blast, but were forced to flee as blubber and huge chunks of whale came raining down on them. Parked cars even further from the scene got smashed by pieces of dead whale. No one was hurt, but the small pieces of whale remains were flecked onto anyone in the area.
Though I wouldn’t have called it such at the time, this is the first “viral video” I remember discovering. And it would be years before it made it to YouTube. I remember in high school stumbling onto a fairly simple HTML page that had a video of this scene in Oregon. The news report was one of the strangest I had ever seen: people gathering to watch and then running as quickly as possible away from an exploding whale. I showed it to a number of people that had never seen anything like it. It isn’t exactly what viral videos are today – which tend to be more pop culture, catchy – but it was certainly unique and something quite foreign to most Midwesterners.