The Exploding Whale: A Little History
There's a story behind why this video is on this site. Just over two years after the whale was exploded, I was hired to be the Desk Editor and a backup photographer/darkroom person for The Daily Astorian about 180 miles up the Oregon coast.

Florence was out of our usual coverage area, which stopped at Tillamook, 70 miles south, but this was not your usual story. As Desk Editor, one of my roles was to monitor the Associated Press wire, and follow-ups to the whale story were still coming in.

So I know when and where it took place, and I'd seen the AP article on it in the Astorian's archives.

In 1978, I changed careers, and was one of the early users of the Internet. Imagine my surprise when this story started popping up in Usenet groups as if it had just happened. It was one of the first Urban Legends, which is pretty funny because (a) it was fact and (b)Florence, Oregon is anything but urban. Click here to see an email message I received in 1993, where the sender apparently thought the whale was exploded in the last week or two.

But the surprise wasn't over. When the Web started up in earnest about 15 years later, this story again popped up, again as if it had just happened, and was widely dubbed a hoax.

I did a few Internet searches and found a site which had the QuickTime version of this clip, which I converted to AVI and from there to the Windows Media and Real Networks formats which you see here which were replaced on November Fools' Day 2013 with an embedded link to an MP4 on YouTube. The quality sucked, so I thought it was worth it to call the station which made the clip, KATU in Portland, OR.

I talked to the news editor, who told me that there were no copies of the original anymore, it had been shot on Super 8 film which had long since faded or fallen apart. He said KATU did not provide materials for web sites, and the Internet copy was as good as anything they had on file, so I may as well use that.

He also said the QuickTime version probably was made by the failure analysis company which was hired by the Oregon Highway Division to find out what went wrong. Apparently the company later used this clip for some Congressional hearing, and it escaped into the Internet from there.

Anyhow, I hope you find it educational, entertaining, and proof that at least one urban legend really happened.

Whale page counter

Amazing Exploding Whale
On the Oregon Coast, Near Florence

November 12, 1970

Copyright (c)1970, KATU-TV, used by permission

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Email from NPR blogger Bill Chappell reported that the man who performed the detonation, Oregon DOT engineer George Thornton, passed away October 27, 2013. His obit is here. The reporter in the video is Paul Linnman, who is still in Portland, with radio station KEX.