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Oregon marks exploding whale's 50th anniversary

Former reporter Larry Bacon says the story has followed him for 50 years.

Posted: Nov 12, 2020 6:38 PM

FLORENCE, Ore. -- Walking along the South Jetty, there is no sign of events that captured headlines 50 years ago today -- a massive sperm whale washing up dead on arrival and an endeavor to remove it that many would soon regret. 

The day was November 12, 1970. It started with a whale.

Larry Bacon was a Register Guard coast reporter, only a few months on the job.

"The whale stunk really bad right at the sight," he recalled.

Then came some out-of-the-box thinking.

"(Highway patrol) came up with a plan like lets just pretend it's a big rock on the highway and let's just blow it up," he said.

What came next was the stuff of legends: 20 cases of dynamite that blew up the 45-foot sperm whale.

"Right after that it started snowing rancid blubber -- there was just no escaping it," said Bacon. "There were chunks flying overhead and I had a bolaflex camera around my neck and I didn't even think about taking a picture. I was just looking up."

His article from that day began with, "it was a beautiful day to blow up a whale." He said it's a story that's followed him for 50 years.

"That's the one attached to my name -- that's the one they wrote a column about when I retired -- and I'm sure it will be in my obituary," he said.

He's not the only one with a connection to the event.

"I wrote my college thesis on this," said Chris Van Vechten.

Chris Van Vechten drove down to Florence just for the day. There was no way he was missing it.

"Pandemic or not we were gonna be here for the 50th anniversary -- we were willing to give up Passover we were willing to give up the Fourth of July -- whale blowing day we had to cut the line," he said.

All these years later, it remains a time where people reflect a bizarre part of Oregon's history and are reminded how not to dispose of a whale.

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