Fifty years ago, a large problem presented itself. A 45-foot sperm whale had washed up on the shores of Florence, Oregon, bringing with it 8 tons of expiring flesh. The state's highway division was tasked with disposing of the magnificent beast and settled on a plan that should never have been settled on — blowing it up with dynamite.
KATU's newsroom caught wind of the event and dispatched reporter Paul Linnman down to investigate. What his cameras captured would become one of the internet's most important and everlasting clips.
I have a vivid childhood memory of my uncle talking about the story to much disbelief and laughter during an extended family gathering. A general consensus of 'oh, we have to see' this led to dialing up Netscape and downloading whatever rudimentary TIFF file was available.
And it didn't disappoint. There was nary an unsatisfied customer to be found. Because what Linnman documented is eternally entertaining. A study in man's hubris and the importance of planning ahead. The building blocks for the final scene in Tremors.
As you undoubtably know by now, the whale exploded real good. Too good in fact. Observers were sent sprinting for their lives as potentially deadly chunks of rotting meat rained down from the sky.
Now, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of mankind's seminal moment, the Oregon Historical Society has released restored footage of the whole deal so that it may continue to live on, only with more complete context and clarity.
This reporter's narrative prose has aged so well. He tells the saddest story in stark economy. Hemmingway would be proud. And his stray cats would have come in handy.
Here's to 50 years and 50 more. Here's hoping the whale's soul is at peace and basking in the knowledge that its life was not for naught. Its still bringing so much joy to so many. Heroes get remembered and legends never truly die.