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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Whale of a Job

It's too bad that the whale they were trying to rescue from the Thames did not survive the ordeal. It reminded me of this story of "A whale that ... will always have the last laugh":

Bob Welch: Tale of flying blubber keeps bubbling up, by Bob Welch Columnist, The Register-Guard, November 10, 2005: Saturday marks the 35th anniversary of the funniest thing that ever happened in Oregon: the exploding whale. Like you needed reminding, right? ... [E]ach year at this time, [we] pay tribute to the ... Oregon Department of Transportation ... for bringing us the laugh heard 'round the world.

Who can we thank for helping keep the spirit alive? An otherwise unassuming Eugene man, Steve Hackstadt, mastermind of the ever-popular "TheExplodingWhale.com" Web site. It receives about 10,000 hits a day ... "There are still people who don't believe," says Hackstadt, a 35-year-old software engineer who works for NASDAQ. "Some think it's an urban legend." No, it's too perfect for legend.

In 1970, an 8-ton sperm whale washed ashore dead - this is an important fact, this "dead" part - just south of Florence. After considering ways to get rid of the stinking, rotting remains, the Highway Division gathered its finest minds to noodle a solution.

Being guys, they naturally figured a half-ton of dynamite would do the job. Most of the ex-whale, they figured, would blow out to sea as mist and any small pieces would be cleaned up by the gulls. ... As KATU's Paul Linnman says while narrating film footage: "The humor of the situation gave way to a run for survival as huge chunks of whale blubber fell everywhere." A woman can be heard saying, "Here come pieces of ... ." The hood of a car is crunched like a pop can.

Nobody was hurt. "However," reported Linnman, "everyone on the scene was covered with small particles of dead whale." Oregon rain - with a ... twist.

For most people, the story faded. But .... In 1990, columnist Dave Barry saw the video and called the explosion "the most wonderful event in the history of the universe." Then, in the mid-'90s, along came Hackstadt, a graduate student in the University of Oregon's computer information science department. He saw the video and slapped it on his personal Web page. "It's a classic," he says. ... Eight tons of whale blubber, splattered up to a quarter-mile from the ex-whale, attest to that.

If engineers thought the idea of burying the whale to be impractical, the story itself refuses to be buried. It has a cult following, ... "I've received death threats. Some people don't understand that the whale was dead when this happened. A lot of people are confused. It's like: 'You killed Keiko.' "

No, no, no. This story isn't about death. It's about a whale that refuses to die. A whale that lives on. A whale that, thanks to man's stupidity, will always have the last laugh.

    Posted by on Saturday, January 21, 2006 at 04:23 PM in Oregon | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (1)


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