Whale explosion

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One speaks of a whale explosion when the putrefaction gases formed in the carcass of a dead whale escape explosively and carry away blood and innards, or the whale is blown up for disposal .

There have been several documented whale explosions in this day and age.

The most famous occurred in 1970 in Florence , Oregon , when a dead sperm whale was blown up by the Oregon Highway Division to dispose of its decaying carcass. The event became known after American humorist Dave Barry reported about it in his newspaper column. Recordings of the demolition appeared on the Internet many years later and became widely known for the improbability and absurdity of the action.

The second known case occurred in 2004 in Tainan , Taiwan . There, the pent-up gases leaked from a stranded and decomposing sperm whale while it was being transported to an autopsy .

On the Internet platforms LiveLeak and YouTube there are more videos of lighter, more or less “controlled” whale explosions or whale openings - from the Netherlands (approx. April 20, 2013), from the Faroe Islands , in whose shallow waters a sperm whale appeared in November 2013 got lost, and from Denmark (February 2014); they also occurred when the already decaying whale carcasses were cut open (e.g. in the Faroe Islands two days after the death of the whale), possibly to prevent a later, more violent explosion.



In November 1970, a 14-meter-long, eight- ton sperm whale died and ran aground near Florence, Oregon. At the time, the Oregon Highway Division was responsible for the beaches and therefore had the task of disposing of the remains. After consulting with the United States Navy , they decided to handle the whale like a boulder and on November 12th to blow it up with half a ton of dynamite . This decision was made because burying it was considered ineffective as the carcass would soon have been flushed free while an explosion would shred the whale into small pieces for carrion-eating animals to take care of. George Thornton, the engineer in charge, said that one charge would probably not be enough and that more explosives would be needed. Thornton later stated that he was chosen because the actual district engineer, Dale Allen, was on the hunt .

The explosion was recorded by reporter Paul Linnman . In his alliterative commentary he quipped that “land-lubber newsmen” ( German : Landlubber journalists) became “land- blubber newsmen” (German: Land-Tran-Journalists) because “the explosion was beyond belief Distances spread ”(“ the blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds ”). The explosion spread large pieces of oil in a large radius around the beach, wrecking a car and chasing away the carrion-eating birds. They couldn't have done much with the remains anyway as the pieces were too big to handle. The blast didn't clear the whole whale either, so Oregon Highway Division workers continued to deal with the smelly remains.

At the end of his news report, Paul Linnman noted that “If another whale is stranded in Lane County , it is reasonable to assume that not only will those responsible remember what to do, but they will also be guaranteed to remember what not to do . "

Urban legend status

For many years it was believed that the story of the exploding whale was an urban legend . It was only really brought to the public after Dave Barry reported on it in his column in the Miami Herald on May 20, 1990, stating that he had records of it. A short time later, a modification of the article, The Farside Comes To Life in Oregon, appeared on bulletin boards , and the Oregon State Highway Division received calls from the press. The records to which you referred, later appeared as a video - file on various websites and became a well-known internet phenomenon . These websites have been criticized by animal rights activists who complained about the humorous treatment of animal cruelty , even when the animal in question was already dead. Your critical emails were published by the amused owners of the websites.


Another whale explosion occurred on January 26, 2004 in Tainan, Taiwan. A gas jam inside a rotting, 17-meter-long and 50-tonne sperm whale caused it to explode. The bull whale died after being stranded on the southwestern coast of Taiwan. The recovery with three cranes took 13 hours and 50 men were needed to load him onto the bunk of a truck. While the whale was being transported, the Taiwan News website reported , more than 600 onlookers and residents, including some vendors selling hot drinks and snacks, gathered to watch the workers in their efforts to unload the dead animal observe. The whale was ordered to be taken to the Sutsao Wild Life Reservation Area after the National Cheng Kung University refused to perform an autopsy . The whale was in downtown Tainan when it exploded. The explosion spattered the whale's blood and innards over the surrounding spectators, vehicles and shop windows.

Scientific research

Many fossil bones of ichthyosaurs are found often wildly scattered. One explanation for this is the formation of putrefaction gases, which, due to the surrounding pressure, do not lead to an explosion under water, but to an implosion and thus could explain the distributed fragments. However, this thesis was refuted on the basis of experiments with pig carcasses sunk in the sea .

According to researcher Achim Reisdorf, it also follows from the measurements that the gas pressure inside a body is too low to trigger an explosion. Furthermore, dry the top of a whale's body in the sun while the underside of the body is washed in water, which leads to cracks in the skin. This could cause gases to gradually escape. Only if the whale body is exposed to strong sunlight, which can lead to temperatures of more than 60 ° C inside due to the insulating layer of fat, and the inflated abdominal wall is slit, an eruption-like escape of blood and innards at more than 60 km / h is possible This happened in 1990 at Nymindegab and in 2013 on the Faroe Islands .

Whale Explosions in Art and Culture

The whale explosion is a subject that many authors have addressed because of its absurdity and improbability. The most famous whale explosions are:



  • Jennings, Paul (1995). Uncanny !: Even More Surprising Stories . USA: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-037576-7 .
  • Linnman, Paul; Brazil, Doug (2003). The Exploding Whale: And Other Remarkable Stories from the Evening News . Graphic Arts Center Publishing Company. ISBN 1-55868-743-2 .
  • O'Brian, Patrick (1937). Two's Company. In The Oxford Annual for Boys (Ed. Herbert Strang), pp. 5-18. London: Oxford University Press.
  • Reisdorf, Achim G .; Bux, Roman; Wyler, Daniel; Benecke, Mark; Klug, Christian; Maisch, Michael W .; Fornaro, Peter & Wetzel, Andreas (2012). Float, explode or sink: postmortem fate of lung-breathing marine vertebrates. Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments, 92 (1): 67-81, doi: 10.1007 / s12549-011-0067-z .
  • Reisdorf, Achim G .; Anderson, Gail S .; Bell, Lynne S .; Klug, Christian; Schmid-Röhl, Annette; Röhl, Hans-Joachim; Jung, Michael; Wuttke, Maisch, Michael W .; Michael; Benecke, Mark; Wyler, Daniel; Bux, Roman; Fornaro, Peter & Wetzel, Andreas (2014). Reply to Ichthyosaur embryos outside the mother body: not due to carcass explosion but to carcass implosion by van Loon (2013). Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments, 94 (3): 487-494, doi: 10.1007 / s12549-014-0162-z .
  • van Loon, Antonious J. (2013). Ichthyosaur embryos outside the mother body: not due to carcass explosion but to carcass implosion. Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments, 93: 103-109, doi: 10.1007 / s12549-012-0112-6 .

Newspaper articles

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. n-tv The Whale That Exploded (recording) episode one of two, accessed June 8, 2011.
  2. ^ Whale explosion on a Dutch beach
  3. ^ "Whale exploding" - Whale explosion in the Faroe Islands on www.liveleak.com
  4. ^ Whale explosion in Denmark in February 2014
  5. a b c theexplodingwhale.com
  6. www.snopes.com
  7. Report on BBC.co.uk
  8. a b c Reisdorf et al .: Float, explode or sink: postmortem fate of lung-breathing marine vertebrates . Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments, 92 (1) (2012), pp. 67-81, doi: 10.1007 / s12549-011-0067-z .
  9. ^ Van Loon: Ichthyosaur embryos outside the mother body: not due to carcass explosion but to carcass implosion . Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments, 93 (2013), pp. 103-109, doi: 10.1007 / s12549-012-0112-6 .
  10. ^ Reisdorf et al .: Reply to Ichthyosaur embryos outside the mother body: not due to carcass explosion but to carcass implosion by van Loon (2013) . Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments, 94 (3) (2014), pp. 487-494, doi: 10.1007 / s12549-014-0162-z .
  11. a b Andreas Frey: Experts have to deal with that. A dead whale will only explode if improperly handled . Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, January 2, 17, 2016, p. 63.
  12. Frank Thadeusz: Wham? Pffft! . DER SPIEGEL, 33, August 11, 2014, p. 119, online .