The Exploding Whale!
At 3:45 p.m. on November 12, 1970, George Thornton authorized the detonation of a half-ton of dynamite. When the plunger was pushed the explosion was set to disintegrate the carcass of an 8-ton sperm whale that had washed up on the beach near Florence, Oregon.
Spectators and news cameras lined the beach to watch the event. And when the whale exploded, there were cheers and shouts.
They did not last for long. Paul Linnman, a KATU-TV reporter live on the scene, reported that ”Our cameras stopped rolling immediately after the blast, when the humor of the entire situation suddenly gave way to a run for survival.”
Large chunks of blubber and whale flesh began raining down on the beach, the spectators, and cars. One vehicle, 1/4 of a mile away, was crushed by large piece of exploded whale.
Mr. Thornton, who made the decision to blow up the whale after consulting with munitions teams in the U.S. Navy, was forever attached to the debacle. He would refuse to talk about it, saying, “Anytime I talk to the media it tends to blow up in my face.”
The story of the exploding whale became legend in Oregon. In 1990, Dave Barry wrote a column about the whale bringing the story to national prominence. In 2010, a site was created in honor of the 40th anniversary of the event - www.theexplodingwhale.com
George Thornton, who would travel the world delivering lectures on problem solving, died on October 27, 2013 at the age of 84.
Source: OregonLive.com, www.theexplodingwhale.com (which is incredible)
(Video of the November 12, 1970 report by Paul Linnman is courtesy of marclar on YouTube.com and copyright of KATU-TV in Oregon.)