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Dead Whale Removal

This dead whale thing is quite a phenomenon. The first thing that everyone sees is this article written by Dave Barry. If you read below, you'll see a few more details and a number of good links to more information and a digitized version of the whole incdent.

The Farside comes to life in Oregon

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 on 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 is that the whale would be blown into small pieces, which would be eaten by seagulls, 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 seagulls who had no doubt permanently relocated to Brazil.

This is a very sobering videotape. Here at the institute we watch it often, especially at parties. But this is no time for gaiety. This is a time to get hold of the folks at the Oregon State Highway Division and ask them, when they get done cleaning up the beaches, to give us an estimate on the US Capitol.

Gary Weber wrote me to let me know that this story is, in fact, true! He writes:

Just a note regarding the "How not to blow up a whale" story. I'm in Oregon. Having seen the news report on television myself, and laughing my ass off, I can tell with utmost certainty that this is a REAL story.

It actually happened in 1970. 25 years ago!! It was recently replayed here in Portland, OR on KATU channel 2 (and I was actually able to get a tape of it). The reporter, Paul Linnman, says that since 1970, he's been getting plenty of letters weekly from various organizations around the country asking about the story. That's almost as amazing as the story itself...

Neat Trick That story is really funny, however, let's see if a text-to-speech synthesizer can make it funnier. I took the above story and ran it through the Festival Speech Synthesis program. I got the following results in AU (950K) and the ever-popular, quite brain-damaged windows WAV (1.9Mb).

Paco's Note: Several people have written me asking " How can I get a copy of this videotape? " Despite the fact that the above is written in the first person, I do not personally own a copy of this tape. Never fear, however: Grue has digitized it. Look at his whale page for information on how to get a copy of it and to see some screen shots.


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Last modified: Fri Mar 7 14:00:55 1997