Exploding Whales: A Retrospective



Dead things rot; this is the way of things. Be they walnuts, cartons of milk, or expired whales, eventually the build up of gases reaches a breaking point and causes an eruption. These ejaculations are often putrid, and if you are unlucky enough to get caught in one, no matter how many showers you take afterwards, expect not to get invited to an fancy dress parties anytime soon.

In the case of the Faroe Islands whale above, it would have eventually ruptured like the worlds worst pinata on its own. The only reason it did here, and that we are now blessed with the footage, is because mister high visibility jacket there decided that the best way to deal with an increasingly bloated and foul smelling Cetacea was to poke it with a sharp stick.

A lesson for the children at home: poking things with sharp stick has never ended well for anyone, or the stick. However, this volcanic expression of bottled up mammal-mank does cause one to throw the mind back, and reflect on the veritable epidemic of meat-geysers that has beset the world thanks to beached sea-things.

Hit the jump to take the strangest trip down memory lane you're likely to experience today. If it isn't, then you lead a far more interesting life than I.


Let us have a moment of silence, to remember George Thornton, who died in the waning days of this past October. Thornton was an Oregon highway engineer in November 1970, when an 8 ton whale carcass beached itself in Florence, Oregon. This story is well known, thanks to an 1990 article written by Dave Barry for the Miami Herald, and again in his 1996 book, Dave Barry in Cyberspace, probably the first book to highlight the more absurd or ridiculous side of the fledgling internet, a side that eventually became the majority shareholder in the internet as a whole.

For those unfamiliar, the Oregon Highway Division was called in to handle the disposal of the corpse, because of the hilarious technicality that beaches were classed as highways, and the whale qualified as the largest roadkill removal on record. The Highway Division, obviously well suited for the task ("hey Bill, bring that steamroller down here a minute, lets see if we can just lay this thing out"), the decision was made to load the decreasingly whale shaped meat pile with a half ton of dynamite. I assume this was because the fumes had caused them all to believe that they were living in a Warner Bros. cartoon rather than Oregon.

"I'm confident that it'll work," said Thornton at the time, presumably having just leafed through the big book of famous last words. The dynamite, which was meant to redistribute the decaying animal into scavenger sized pieces along the shoreline, was detonated in a resounding thud, as the whale broke cleanly in two (I'd like to see you break a corpse in two with dynamite - that takes skill), save for the massive chunks of whale that were sent into the sky, only to rain down on the sizable gawking crowd, the dull splats of blubber and distended former whale drowned out by the cries of the crowd running for cover, or the sounds of near-by vehicles being inflicted by what would assuredly be the strangest mass insurance claim in the pacific north west.

If such an event were to happen today, there would be footage everywhere. Instead of doing the sensible thing and running for cover as canon balls of meat reenacted one of the plagues of Egypt, a modern audience would capture the entire thing for prosperity on their cell phones. Usually, an event like this would pass into urban legend, and so did this, until the news footage, which includes every detail described above. And it was even preserved using the 1970s equivalent of shaky cell footage - Super 8.



But if you were to think these two incidents sat along in the history of concussive whale events, you lack imagination. Whale explosions are incredibly common, though statistically they skew towards ocean-adjacent communities. At least in Oregon they had the sense to leave the animal where it was, so that eventually time and tide (and a significant increase in crab and seagulls) would draw the animal back out into the ocean it probably should have stayed in. In January of 2004, a whale exploded in the middle of Tainan City, spraying local businesses, traffic signs and pedestrians with a bilge of fluids, entrails and assorted meat-stuffs. The animal, which it had taken 13 hours to load onto the truck, was being transported to the Sutsao Wild Life Reservation for an autopsy to be performed.

While the video above includes real footage, it also wonderfully includes a reenactment of the event. Yes, National Geographic paid actors, set designers, riggers, best boys and probably caterers to recreate a whale explosion. In splattering detail.

Controlled explosions are frequently used to dispose of the beached remains of these massive creatures. But it's the uncontrolled ones that make for the best headlines. So just remember, the next time you go whale watching off Nantucket, those seemingly gentle marine giants that you're fawning over are actually disgusting time bombs, just waiting for the opportunity to shower us frail, pasty ape-things in a viscous soup of belly-jelly. They're just bidding their time.

Via Geekologie.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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