In order to determine how we could have been better prepared for the pandemic, look no further than this whale of a tale from Oregon's whale explosion incident in 1970.
When a dead 45-foot long sperm whale washed ashore at Florence along the central Oregon coast on November 9, 1970, city and state officials considered three options.
They could let the carcass decompose where it was. Or they could chop it up into pieces and bury them.
But nobody wanted to cut up the carcass. And burying was discouraged because the remains could be uncovered.
Officials needed to get the job done quicker which brought them to option number three.
At the time, the highway division had jurisdiction over Oregon's beaches and, after consulting with the United States Navy, they chose to remove the 8-short-ton carcass by blowing it to smithereens.
The Doncaster Council in England said there are three things we can learn from the blubber blunder.
In November 1970, officials in Oregon, USA decided to blow up a rotting whale carcass. The whole thing went horribl… https://t.co/RPivfPhyXo— Doncaster Council (@Doncaster Council)1586162901.0
The detonation was a massive failure and the Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council used the incident as a life lesson applicable to the pandemic.
The Doncaster Council Twitter account tweeted a play-by-play of the plan that blew up in the face of Oregonians.
The story begins when a 45-foot sperm whale washed up on the beach in Florence, Oregon on 9 November 1970. Here i… https://t.co/yyhB6Y87I0— Doncaster Council (@Doncaster Council)1586162902.0
There was some debate amongst locals about what to do with it. 1️⃣ Although unpleasant, they could leave it to de… https://t.co/LbxvxHnw2B— Doncaster Council (@Doncaster Council)1586162905.0
It was decided that leaving the whale to decompose would be too unpleasant in the short term. No one wants the sm… https://t.co/gCRHfWsLgW— Doncaster Council (@Doncaster Council)1586162908.0
Fortunately, at least for the purposes of this history lesson, they chose option 3. They would blow up the whale. https://t.co/39r7noYnHo— Doncaster Council (@Doncaster Council)1586162911.0
Officials ignored the warning of a military veteran and expert in explosives who happened to be near the site.
He claimed that 20 sticks would have been sufficient instead of the planned 20 cases—a half a ton—of dynamite.
George Thornton, who sensibly seems to be wearing a hard hat, was the engineer in charge of the explosion. By his… https://t.co/mbMOJS8km9— Doncaster Council (@Doncaster Council)1586162912.0
An ex-member of the military advised George and the other officials that this was waaaay too much, and just a few s… https://t.co/drs4h0VSjH— Doncaster Council (@Doncaster Council)1586162914.0
And the crowds gathered, completely oblivious of the whale debris to soon come raining down on them.
On 12 November, in front of a crowd of excited spectators (yes, really)...they exploded the whale.— Doncaster Council (@Doncaster Council)1586162915.0
The explosion occurred at 3:45 p.m. on November 12, with huge chunks of whale blubber blasting beyond the projected distance on the beach and landing near buildings and parking structures.
The dunes were evacuated after spectators scattered and dodged pieces of rotted whale flesh falling from the sky.
Very quickly, the short-sightedness of the plan became evident. The huge amount of dynamite sent massive chunks o… https://t.co/ovFQF7r5RY— Doncaster Council (@Doncaster Council)1586162918.0
The overwhelming smell sent people running for their homes as rotting whale plopped down around them. The situati… https://t.co/PgsbCFBLeo— Doncaster Council (@Doncaster Council)1586162921.0
Much of the whale did not disintegrate and the scavenger birds that were expected to come and pick off the remaining pieces never arrived, most likely out of fear from the sound of the explosion.
To cap everything off, the main bit of the whale stayed exactly where it had been. The problem hadn’t gone away, o… https://t.co/KE6jOVW9Am— Doncaster Council (@Doncaster Council)1586162922.0
The British town said there are three takeaways from the event that took place 50-years ago.
1️⃣ DON’T IGNORE THE ADVICE THAT EXPERTS GIVE YOU. They know what they’re talking about.— Doncaster Council (@Doncaster Council)1586162924.0
2️⃣ Sometimes, it’s better to just sit at home and do nothing than go outside and do something ridiculous. Let nature take its course.— Doncaster Council (@Doncaster Council)1586162925.0
3️⃣ When you ignore expert advice and act like an idiot, you cover everyone else with decaying whale blubber.… https://t.co/HaGT7KZt35— Doncaster Council (@Doncaster Council)1586162925.0
The city of Florence—which was the site of the whale bomb—saw the informative thread and responded that:
"We can all learn from the past!"
We can all learn from the past! #StayHomeSaveLives https://t.co/GkQAY3F4I0— City of Florence, Oregon (@City of Florence, Oregon)1586196703.0
#OTD 1970, the Oregon Highway Division consulted with the US Navy and decided the best way to dispose of a whale ca… https://t.co/IgfR8tG2eg— U.S. Naval Institute (@U.S. Naval Institute)1573608203.0
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the incident.
Decades later, we are still living in an era where an expert's warning is ignored and the public is left scrambling to pick up the pieces as a consequence of horrible decisions.