Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

A local resident dresses up as 'Flo the Whale' to highlight the new name of the park in Florence, Ore.

MEGAN MESSMER/CITY OF FLORENCE /The New York Times News Service

Fifty years ago, a whale carcass washed ashore near Florence, Ore., and the authorities wrestled with how to get rid of it.

They couldn’t bury it, fearing the eight tonnes of rotting flesh and its smell would quickly be exposed. Cutting and then burying it wasn’t an option because no one wanted to take on that task.

So, state highway officials decided to use a half-tonne of dynamite to blow up the 45-foot sperm whale, hoping its disintegrated matter would be whisked away by gulls.

Story continues below advertisement

The explosion instead spewed large chunks of decayed whale on curious bystanders, and even crushed a nearby parked car.

“The blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds,” Paul Linnman, a journalist for the television station KATU, reported at the time.

Rather than put the escapade behind them, Florence residents voted to dedicate a park after the 1970 blast, choosing “Exploding Whale Memorial Park” as the name for the recreational area in the city, about 210 kilometres southwest of Portland.

“If you talk to people, it’s not necessarily a proud moment,” said Megan Messmer, Florence’s city project manager.

The blast is a point of contention for some residents, Ms. Messmer said, as the city is often blamed for the decision to blow up the carcass; the state highway division was responsible.

Still, Florence residents voted to commemorate the whale.

After the park opened last May with a temporary name, the city asked residents for suggestions for a permanent title, later narrowing those to a few in an online survey.

Story continues below advertisement

More than half of the final tally – 439 out of 856 responses – voted for “Exploding Whale Memorial Park,” Ms. Messmer said. Other ideas were “Bridge View Park” and “Siuslaw River View Park” for nearby landmarks.

The park is the latest example of what the public can come up with when invited to choose the name for sites or vessels.

In 2016, a British research agency’s call for help naming a ship was answered with “Boaty McBoatface.” The ship was instead named for naturalist David Attenborough, though a British submarine was given the whimsical name in an effort to appease disappointed internet users.

In 2018, a community of 5,000 in Estonia received 12,000 votes online to make a cannabis leaf the symbol on its flag.

The naming of the park in Oregon, however, is not an internet-fuelled fluke: Ms. Messmer said most residents are excited about the park’s name.

The park, as well as the 50th anniversary of the blast, was originally set to be celebrated at the city’s “Rhody Days” in May, but the Rhododendron Festival was cancelled because of the coronavirus. This year’s theme was supposed to be “Blast From the Past.”

Story continues below advertisement

A sign bearing the park’s new name was installed on June 13, with a rendering of a whale spouting water in the shape of a heart.

“It’s not gory,” Ms. Messmer said. “It’s a cute whale.”

Jo Beaudreau, the owner of an art supply store and the designer of the park’s sign, said the explosion is “still a little bit of a touchy subject” for residents, especially those who were involved in the blast.

She hopes the park can serve as a reminder that “we should celebrate our mistakes” and not be embarrassed.

The 1970 blast was a lesson learned for Oregon: There is now a policy to bury carcasses that can’t be removed easily, Ms. Messmer said.

The episode also found renewed relevance recently as a town in northern England used the blubber-coated bystanders in Oregon as a lesson to its residents about the coronavirus: “Sometimes, it’s better to just sit at home and do nothing than go outside and do something ridiculous,” it said on Twitter.

Story continues below advertisement

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Coronavirus information
Coronavirus information
The Zero Canada Project provides resources to help you manage your health, your finances and your family life as Canada reopens.
Visit the hub
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies