There have also been spontaneous explosions. The most widely reported example was in Taiwan in 2004, when a buildup of gas inside a decomposing sperm whale caused it to explode while it was being transported for a post-mortem examination. Exploding whales have been written about and documented by several well known authors.
On November 12, 1970, a , eight-ton sperm whale died as a result of beaching itself near Florence, Oregon. Because all Oregon beaches are under the jurisdiction of the State Parks and Recreation Department, responsibility for disposing of the carcass fell upon the Oregon Highway Division (now known as the Oregon Department of Transportation, or ODOT), a sister agency. After consulting with officials at the United States Navy, they decided that it would be best to remove the whale in the same way they would remove a boulder and, on November 12, used half a ton of dynamite on it. They thought burying the whale would be ineffective, as it would soon be uncovered, and they believed the use of dynamite would cause an explosion that would disintegrate the whale into pieces small enough for scavengers to clear up. The engineer in charge of the operation, George Thornton, was recorded as stating that one set of charges might not be enough and more might be needed. Thornton later explained that he was chosen to remove the whale because the district engineer, Dale Allen, had gone hunting.
The resulting explosion was caught on film by television photographer Doug Brazil for a story reported by news reporter Paul Linnman of KATU-TV in Portland, Oregon. In his alliterative voiceover, Linnman joked that "land-lubber newsmen" became "land-blubber newsmen", for "the blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds." The explosion caused large pieces of blubber to land some distance away from the beach, some of which caused heavy damage to a nearby car. The explosion disintegrated only some of the whale, most of which remained on the beach for the Oregon Highway Division workers to clear away.
At the end of his news story, Paul Linnman noted that "It might be concluded that should a whale ever be washed ashore in Lane County again, those in charge will not only remember what to do, they'll certainly remember what not to do." It was reported in the ODOT's employee newspaper, TranScript, that when 41 sperm whales beached nearby in 1979, state parks officials burned and buried them. Today, beach managers tow dead beached whales to the open sea. This is done mainly for safety reasons, as the rotting carcasses have been known to attract sharks and so become a danger to beach users.
For several years, the story of the exploding whale was commonly disbelieved and thought to be an urban legend. However, it was brought to widespread public attention by popular writer Dave Barry in his Miami Herald column of May 20, 1990, when he reported that he had footage of the event. Barry wrote, "Here at the Institute we watch it often, especially at parties." Some time later the Oregon State Highway division started to receive calls from the media after a shortened version of the article was distributed on bulletin boards under the title "The Farside Comes To Life In Oregon". However, the piece did not explain that the event had happened approximately twenty five years previously and whoever had copied Barry's article neglected to include the authorship of the piece. Dave Barry says that on a fairly regular basis someone forwards him the "authorless" column and suggests he write something about the described incident. Due to these oversights, an article in the ODOT's TranScript notes that
"We started getting calls from curious reporters across the country right after the electronic bulletin board story appeared," said Ed Schoaps, public affairs coordinator for the Oregon Department of Transportation. "They thought the whale had washed ashore recently, and were hot on the trail of a governmental blubber flub-up. They were disappointed that the story has twenty five years of dust on it."
Schoaps has fielded calls from reporters and the just plain curious in Oregon, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Massachusetts. The Wall Street Journal called, and Washington, D.C.-based Governing magazine covered the immortal legend of the beached whale in its June issue. And the phone keeps ringing. "I get regular calls about this story," Schoaps said. His phone has become the blubber hotline for ODOT, he added. "It amazes me that people are still calling about this story after nearly twenty five years."
The footage that was referred to in the article, from KATU for the news story reported by Paul Linnman, resurfaced later as a video file on several websites and became a reasonably well-known and popular Internet meme. These websites attracted criticism from upset people who complained that they were making fun of acts of animal cruelty, even though the whale was already dead. Their critical emails were subsequently published by the bemused site webmasters.
The story of Oregon's exploding whale was widely known on Usenet for quite some time and was in particular discussed on alt.folklore.urban, a newsgroup devoted to urban legends. The incident, including a complete copy of Barry's article, was recorded in the newsgroup's 1991 FAQ, then maintained by Peter van der Linden, where it was marked as "Tb" (believed true, but not conclusively proven). In 1992, after newsgroup poster "snopes" tried to verify whether this was true or not, the newsgroup received confirmation that it was a true story and marked it as true.
A second whale explosion occurred on January 26, 2004, in Tainan City, Taiwan. In this incident, a buildup of gas inside a decomposing sperm whale, measuring 17 m (55 ft 9 in) long and weighing 50 tons, caused it to burst. The older bull whale had died after becoming beached on the southwestern coast of Taiwan, and it had taken more than 13 hours, three large cranes, and 50 workers to shift the beached sperm whale onto the back of a truck.
While the whale was being moved, Taiwan News reported that "a large crowd of more than 600 local Yunlin residents and curiosity seekers, along with vendors selling snack food and hot drinks, braved the cold temperature and chilly wind to watch workmen try to haul away the dead marine leviathan". Professor Wang Chien-ping had ordered the whale be moved to the Sutsao Wild Life Reservation Area after he had been refused permission to perform a post-mortem at the National Cheng Kung University in Tainan. The whale was being transported on the back of a truck through the center of Tainan from the university laboratory to the preserve when the explosion occurred. However, it did not stop researchers from performing a necropsy on the animal.
The explosion was reported to have splattered blood and whale entrails over surrounding shop-fronts, bystanders, and cars. BBC News Online interviewed an unnamed Taiwanese local who said, "What a stinking mess. This blood and other stuff that blew out on the road is disgusting, and the smell is really awful."
Over the course of about one year, Professor Wang completed a bone display from the remains of the whale's rotting dead body. The assembled specimen and some preserved organs and tissues have been on display in the Taijiang Cetacean Museum since April 8, 2005.
Whale corpses are regularly disposed of through the use of explosion; however, the whales are usually first towed out to sea. Government-sanctioned explosions have occurred in both South Africa and Iceland.
A number of controlled explosions have been made in South Africa. Explosives were used to kill a beached humpback whale 40 km (24 miles) west of Port Elizabeth on August 6, 2001, while a Southern Right Whale that beached near Cape Town on 15 September 2005 was killed by authorities through detonation. In this instance authorities said that the whale could not have been saved, and that the use of explosives in such cases was recommended by the International Whaling Commission. A few weeks after the August 6th explosion near Port Elizabeth, the carcass of a second humpback was dragged out to sea and explosives were used to break it into pieces so it would not pose a hazard to shipping. Yet another explosion was performed in Bonza Bay on September 20, 2004, when an adult humpback whale beached and died. In order to sink the whale, authorities towed it out to sea, affixed explosives to it, and set them off from a distance.
A whale carcass adrift in the Icelandic harbour of Hafnarfjörður was split in two by a controlled explosion on June 5, 2005. The remains were dragged out to sea; however, they soon drifted back, and eventually had to be tied down.
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