Back in the 90’s, well before I was doing anything online, I had a few friends who were. And one of the things I clearly remember one of them merrily telling me all about was a video simply known as the Exploding Whale. It sounded awesome. So awesome that I made a mental note to myself to watch it someday. But to give you an idea of how well mental notes and I tend to get along, until about 10 minutes ago I still hadn’t seen it. And the only reason I saw it 10 minutes ago is because I read in this week’s This is True that George Thomas Thornton, the man who made the call to blow up a 45-foot-long, 8-ton dead whale with 20 cases of dynamite, died back on October 27th. He was 84.
“The exploding whale,” notes technology news site The Register, “shower[ed] spectators, the beach and nearby parked cars with blubber and whale bits.” And some of the “bits” weighed dozens, if not hundreds, of pounds. “The humor of the entire situation suddenly gave way to a run for survival as huge chunks of whale blubber fell everywhere,” deadpans KATU-TV’s Paul Linnman in a video report on the story. The video showed at least one car was flattened by the falling chunks o’ whale.
If you’re like me and have never seen this or if you just feel like reliving it, here’s the video.
Sadly, it seems Thornton never quite came to terms with this being the only thing that millions of people would remember him for. Can’t say I blame him, really.
Thornton was deeply embarrassed by the failure to obliterate the whale, and didn’t like that it went viral online. When Linnman asked Thornton for an interview years later, Thornton refused, saying “whenever I talk to the media, it blows up in my face.” Linnman said “I don’t think he was trying to be funny” with the comment. “It’s just the way he felt.”
Being funny or not, I still laughed. Some people, I suppose, are just destined to be remembered for something no matter what they do. and for Thornton, that thing looks to be unintentional hilarity.