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Exploding Whale Day: More Each Year Behind the Oregon Coast Legend

Published 11/12/21 at 6:28 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Exploding Whale Day: More Every Year Behind the Oregon Coast Legend

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(Oregon Coast) – The most famous and yet infamous incident on the Oregon coast never fails to get chuckles, and its wacky footage seems to echo down the ages, now over 50 years old, including the smirk-inducing wishes of "Happy Exploding Whale Day" every November 12. (Above: a bar in Portland got in on the spirit of the holiday in 2020)

Few bits of Oregon coast history are as resilient to leaving the public consciousness, and no other has acquired its own giggling cult from around the world. Thus, it's no surprise new things about the incident or how people celebrate it come to light periodically. Such as did you know this was not the first exploding whale on the Oregon coast?

First, the event itself.

It began on November 9, 1970, when a beached whale carcass stranded about a mile and a half south of the Florence south jetty. Three days later, spectators and media gathered en masse to watch what the then-named Oregon Highway Division (now ODOT) had in mind for the hapless mammal. They wanted to get rid of it by blowing it up with dynamite.

The idea was to create thousands of smaller, manageable pieces, but the result was a literal “rain” of terror as myriad tiny bits of whale flesh and liquid goo was blown into the sky – and after all, what comes up must come down. One car had a massive chunk fall on it; some 100 people or more were soaked in disgusting liquid.

It was all filmed by KATU Channel 2 in Portland and reported by rookie Paul Linneman. Then the pre-digital footage largely disappeared, but was brought up periodically on KATU itself or by a writer here or there.

This where the Oregon coast legend took on a life of its own.

In the ‘80s, humorist Dave Barry wrote about it, bringing it up to a whole new generation and captivating millions. It wasn't until the advent of the internet in the mid ‘90s that it was suddenly available to those around the word, and it quickly became what was for decades the most watched clip ever.

Somewhere about then, a Eugene man named Steve Hackenstadt started, a site which found immediate success. But it also brought blowback and strange reactions, such as people accusing him of having blown up the whale or maybe faking the footage.

Either way, Hackenstadt's became the center of Exploding Whale cult culture, and somewhere in the 2000s the internet started wishing people “happy exploding whale day” every anniversary.

Since, more on the Exploding Whale keeps coming to light, including what famous Oregon resident was born on that day. Wacky Oregon Coast History: Nov. 12 is Happy Exploding Whale Day, New Facts

Florence took some time to make its peace with the infamous incident, with many locals resenting the constant reference and even the visitations. Others, however, laughingly embraced it and would hold little celebrations each anniversary. Those grew and grew over the years, and finally the City of Florence incorporated it into local culture, with even an Exploding Whale Memorial Park being erected along the riverfront (it's not the actual explosion site). Yes, There Is Now an Exploding Whale Park in Florence, Oregon Coast

Periodically, more background history is revealed about the wild incident and the filming of it, but the most interesting discovery was this past year when Oregon Coast Beach Connection found there was yet another blown-up whale incident in Warrenton thirty years before this one.

Florence was not the first to blow up a whale. Not at all. And it turns out the results were about the same. Warrenton Had an 'Exploding Whale' 30 Years Before Central Oregon Coast Was it as bad as the Florence Exploding Whale we all know and love? Quite likely


New Song, Animation Pokes Fun at Oregon Coast's Exploding Whale A riotous new entry into the lore released by a cartoon band

Exploding Whale Celebrations Will Abound in Central Oregon Coast Burgh Florence will whoop it up in style on Nov. 13, day after the anniversary

Oregon Coast's Tillie the Whale History a Kooky and Dramatic One The origin story of the old Waldport attraction is dramatic - and hints at another 'exploding whale'

Brits on Telly Get Silly with Oregon Coast Exploding Whale Song | Video British comedian Jimmy Carr at the helm, one comedy / game show in Britain featured the new tune

Before Exploding Whale, Legend of Oregon Coast's Imploding Whale Also in Florence, if true the man 'was bound to the blubber beyond all bearable boundaries'

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Video clip still courtesy KATU

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