The most absurd and glorious piece of Oregon history has been commemorated by residents along the state's Central Coast: An outdoor recreation site along the Siuslaw River is now named Exploding Whale Memorial Park. Residents of Florence voted on the name last year, and anointed the location with a new sign in mid-June.
In November 1970, an 8-ton, dead and decaying sperm whale washed up on one of the city's beaches and was simply too big to bury. According to the Oregon Historical Society, "In addition to the stench and the possibility that the body would burst, local officials were concerned that people curious about the carcass might climb on it and fall in."
So state officials decided to blow up the whale using dynamite. It didn't go well.
"The humor of the situation suddenly gave way to a run for survival," KATU-TV reporter Paul Linnman said in a now-iconic on-the-scene news broadcast that's often replayed on the anniversary. Spectators began to scream and dart for cover as the blubber bits flew. One piece was so big, it managed to smash a car, and the scattered remains still had to be buried. Or in the words of Linnman: "The remaining chunks were of a size that no respectable seagull would attempt to tackle."
Clearly, the residents of Florence have a sense of humor and pride about the debacle. In a public poll, "Exploding Whale Memorial Park" won a landslide victory over more picturesque names like "Dune View Park" and "Little Tree Park." The community also created a mascot: an adorable, totally intact whale named Flo. You can now visit the site, which has picnic tables, kayak access and views of the Siuslaw Dunes, to pay your respects to whale disposal gone wrong.
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