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No, No One is Blowing Up Manzanita Whale, But More Of This in Oregon Coast History Than You Think

Published 6/05/24 at 7:45 p.m.
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection

(Manzanita, Oregon) – It's still mostly a humor thing: some folks out there are posting that Oregon coast officials – namely Oregon State Parks – are getting ready to cause the latest beached to explode. Some of it seems to be coming from the always-offbeat Keep Portland Weird page (which is just kidding around); others are memes constructed by private citizens to look like news posts. (Censored photo Oregon State Parks - actual shot below)

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Whatever it is, it's reaching internet rumor state. Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) made it a point Wednesday to double down on what everyone supposedly already knew: this is not how things are done anymore. In fact, there's a bit of a serious note to all this. OPRD is concerned about all the people running around trying to visit the way-too-famous whale. There are snowy plover nests that are getting disturbed and that is a problem.

There is, however, a much stranger history to “exploding whales” on the coast than you might imagine. There was an exploding whale decades before the famous one, an “imploding whale” and maybe even a “zombie whale.”

You can also get fined for screwing around in the wrong way here. You must stay off the vegetation area and stick to wet sand areas only. More on snowy plover management

“Please plan an alternate route to the beach rather than walk through the areas being groomed to attract plovers or where plovers may already be nesting,” OPRD said. “No dogs (even on a leash), vehicles, bikes, kites or drones on these beaches – including the entire dune area and the wet sand, which can be far from signs.”

OPRD said in a social post that no one is “blowing up a beached whale later this month. History isn't repeating itself.”

The humpback whale (which tragically died by a boat strike Scientists Find Humpback Whale on N. Oregon Coast Died of Vessel Impact) is now a stinky pile of rotting flesh, and OPRD provided this grotesque photo to drive the point home. OPRD added the disgust-o-rama slabs of stinky stuff are getting worse by the day. If you like possibly upchucking on the beach, Oregon Coast Beach Connection can vouch that this will get you close, if not there in seconds.

No one wants to see you technicolor yawn on a beach.

“Also, what little remains is in a snowy plover management area,” OPRD said. “The birds are trying to nest and hordes of people traipsing through their area causes the nests to fail.”

So, then there's that again.

While the famed Exploding Whale of Florence is a popular epic tale and video, it turns out it happened decades before.

Oregon Coast Beach Connection discovered this a few years back: in the '30s, local politicians in Warrenton tried the exploding whale experience. 1937 was the year, and that August saw a gigantic cetacean showing upon the Columbia River side of Warrenton. At first it was a tourist hit; hundreds came to see it. Then, being August, the scent kicked in, and kept kicking...and kicking in. It flooded the town.

Long story short: after much arguing over jurisdiction (and passing the hot potato), local officials snagged a “powder man” from Portland and he – you guessed it – made the whale go boom.

In Florence there's an official Exploding Whale Park

So what happened? By all accounts – and they're meager – it was like that Peter Gabriel song about Red Rain, but smellier and gooier. See the full story Warrenton Had an 'Exploding Whale' 30 Years Before Central Oregon Coast

In 1952 there was what you could call a “zombie whale.” What newspapers gloriously referred to as an “excessively dead” whale washed up near Depoe Bay and then was buried. The smell, thankfully, went away. But a month later it was unearthed by waves and started floating around the shoreline again. Once again, it was buried. It came out a second time. See the full story Cue Michael Jackson: 'Zombie' Whales of Oregon Coast History

Considered more of a legend, there's only a possibility this one's true. Florence may have had an “imploding whale” some 60 years before its well-televised counterpart. At Heceta Head Lightstation, around 1910 or so, apparently a whale washed up on the beach below.

Supposedly, one lighthouse keeper was trying to impress a lady and tried posing for a photo while standing on the whale. He fell right into the soft, decayed and disgusting creature, utterly humiliated. Local historians don't think this one's true, however. Then again, they are not positive.... See the full Imploding Whale story

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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