Thursday, November 23, 2006



Oregon has a long history of whales along it's coast...from annual gray whale migrations to occassional carcasses that wash up on the beaches...

This photograph from 1939 shows the skeleton of a whale called "Tillie the Whale" south of Waldport on the central Oregon coast. The bones of a whale are assembled outside as a tourist attraction. In the whale's mouth is a sign reading "Here lie the bones of Tillie, the whale; In the Shore Pines office we'll give you her tale".

Of course, perhaps the most famous and earliest record of a whale was Lewis & Clark's examination of a 105 foot Blue Whale on January 8, 1806 that had washed ashore at the mouth of Ecola Creek on the north coast.

Clark, Sacajawea, and others found a group of Salish-speaking Indians from the Tillamook tribe processing blubber and bought a few gallons of oil and 300 pounds of blubber for the expedition, wintering at Ft. Clatsop. The bones of the whale were last seen in 1941 at campgsites on the north side of the creek. Ecola was Clark's name for the creek, also the Indian word for whale. Ecola was not used by early white settlers who called it, and the community, Elk Creek. But many other arae settlements had the same name and Ecola came into use.

On a more comical note, there was the semi-ineffective plan of disposing of a sperm whale in Florence in 1970 with dynamite. Here's part columnist Dave Barry's take on it:

I am absolutely not making this incident up; in fact I have it all on videotape. The tape is from a local TV news show in Oregon, which sent a reporter out to cover the removal of a 45-foot, eight-ton dead whale that washed up on the beach. The responsibility for getting rid of the carcass was placed upon the Oregon State Highway Division, apparently on the theory that highways and whales are very similar in the sense of being large objects.

So anyway, the highway engineers hit upon the plan -- remember, I am not making this up -- of blowing up the whale with dynamite. The thinking here was that the whale would be blown into small pieces, which would be eaten by sea gulls, and that would be that. A textbook whale removal.

So they moved the spectators back up the beach, put a half-ton of dynamite next to the whale and set it off. I am probably not guilty of understatement when I say that what follows, on the videotape, is the most wonderful event in the history of the universe. First you see the whale carcass disappear in a huge blast of smoke and flame. Then you hear the happy spectators shouting "Yayy!" and "Whee!" Then, suddenly, the crowd's tone changes. You hear a new sound like "splud." You hear a woman's voice shouting "Here come pieces of... MY GOD!" Something smears the camera lens.

Later, the reporter explains: "The humor of the entire situation suddenly gave way to a run for survival as huge chunks of whale blubber fell everywhere." One piece caved in the roof of a car parked more than a quarter of a mile away. Remaining on the beach were several rotting whale sectors the size of condominium units. There was no sign of the sea gulls, who had no doubt permanently relocated in Brazil.

Here's a link to the actual video of the episode...


foul pete said...

Off shore winds next week Doc old boy... See you there.

Anonymous said...

Very funny story... thanks for the laugh