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Exploding Whale Memorial Park – a blast from the past is memorialized in a new park

Jun 22, 2020, 9:00 AM
Exploding Whale Memorial Park...
Fifty years after officials tried to dispose of a beached whale by using dynamite. The citizens of a small Oregon town have memorialized that event with a new park. Credit City of Florence - Facebook

Exploding Whale Memorial Park. That’s the name a small Oregon town has chosen to memorialize a 45 foot long, 8-ton whale that was blown up on its beaches nearly fifty years ago. 

Yes, you read that right. Fifty years ago an 8-ton sperm whale carcass washed ashore on the beach of a small Oregon town and the authorities weren’t quite sure what to do with it. The stench was getting unbearable and authorities weren’t quite sure what to do.

Reports say that the city was concerned that the body might burst, or a curious person might climb on top of it and fall inside so they needed to act fast. So a decision was made.

They blew the whale up.

‘A blast from the past’

Reporting for KATU in 1970, Paul Linnman said the 45-foot long sperm whale that washed ashore in early November was quite a ‘stinking whale of a problem’ for the Oregon State Highway Division. He says that it had been so long since something like this had happened, that no one remembered what to do. 

“In selecting its battle plan the Highway Division decided the carcass couldn’t be buried because it might soon be uncovered, and 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.”

Authorities hoped that the half-ton of explosives would disintegrate the dead animal and leave manageable pieces for the birds and crabs to take care of it.

 

Unfortunately for all, that wasn’t the case. 

“The blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds,” Linnman said.

While the explosion went off without a hitch it didn’t do what authorities hoped.

“The beach erupted in a 100-foot-high column of sand and whale,” Larry Bacon reported in the Register-Guard. “Chunks of the animal flew in every direction, and spectators began to scream and run for cover when they glimpsed large pieces soaring directly overhead.”

Instead of disintegrating, chunks of the whale were blasted in all directions. While no one was injured, one chunk of blubber landed on, and crushed, a car parked a quarter of a mile away.

According to Florence’s project manager, the new city policy for any animal carcass that can’t be easily removed to be buried in place.

50 years later welcome to Exploding Whale Memorial Park

Now, nearly 50 years since blubber rained down on those gathered on the beach, the spot will be forever memorialized at Florence’s new Exploding Whale Memorial Park.

 

The name was originally supposed to be unveiled during the cities ‘Blast from the Past’ themed Rhododendron Day’s festival, but due to the coronavirus that celebration was canceled. So the City of Florence unveiled the official sign this past Saturday.

The name was selected by the citizens of the town and the city government says that out of the 124 suggestions, Exploding Whale Memorial Park was the winner, blowing out the competition from other, more traditional names, like ‘Dune View Park’ or ‘Siuslaw River View Park.’

“We received 124 unique suggestions that were narrowed down to 9 options for a community survey. Of the 856 votes received on that survey, 439 of them went to Exploding Whale Memorial Park!” The City of Florence wrote on Facebook. 

Also accompanying the new recreational area, is a very much alive and in one piece whale named Flo.

The new Exploding Whale Memorial Park is now open to the public and features picnic shelters, bike shelters and kayaking inlets.

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Exploding Whale Memorial Park – a blast from the past is memorialized in a new park