Florence, OR

When Whales Explode: The Quirky History of Florence, Oregon

The New West
whalePhoto byTodd CravensonUnsplash

Florence, Oregon, is a delightful coastal town with an interesting historical incident and plenty of modern fun. The diverse offerings of the city include plenty of opportunities on land and water.

In November of 1970, a most unusual predicament befell the local residents. A massive, deceased sperm whale washed ashore, its gargantuan body casting a surreal shadow over the beach. The 45-foot, 8-ton carcass captivated the town, leaving residents wondering how to possibly dispose of such an immense creature.

Unconventional Problem Solving

The decision to use dynamite was made, and highway engineer George Thornton was tasked with sorting out the details. The plan was to blow up the whale, allowing seagulls and other scavengers to feast on the smaller pieces while the rest would be washed away by the tide.

Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!

Onlookers gathered at a safe distance, curious and anxious. The highway engineer strategically placed 20 cases of dynamite in and around the deceased whale, intending to send the blast toward the sea.

Unfortunately, when the countdown ended and the explosives detonated, it was instantly clear that Thornton had miscalculated the direction the explosion would take. Rather than seaward, the debris flew upward and outward.

Florence’s Tourism Renaissance

Not surprisingly, the incident played a pivotal role in modern tourism for Florence. Once a serene coastal town, Florence experienced a resurgence of interest as visitors flocked to check out the site of this infamous event.

At the time, local businesses thrived as tourists sought out whale-themed souvenirs. Florence has proudly embraced its place in history as the town that confronted an exploding whale head-on, emerging with a story for the ages.

In fact, if you are interested, the city has opened the “Exploding Whale Memorial Park.” It has fantastic views, a picnic area, and canoe/kayak access. Of course, Florence has plenty more to offer visitors, including these must-visit locations:

Sand Master Park

If you're a fan of adventure and outdoor fun, Sand Master Park is the place to be. Known as the world's first sandboard park, it offers an exhilarating experience for both beginners and seasoned sandboarders. The park provides all the necessary equipment, including sandboards and sleds, and even offers lessons for those looking to perfect their technique. With towering dunes and stunning coastal views, Sand Master Park is a haven for thrill-seekers and nature enthusiasts alike.

Sea Lion Caves

Just a short drive from Florence lies one of nature's most awe-inspiring wonders – the Sea Lion Caves. This natural cave system is the largest sea cave in the world and serves as a sanctuary for Steller sea lions and various seabirds. A visit here allows you to witness these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat, with an underground elevator taking you down to the heart of the cave. The breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the powerful roars of sea lions make for an unforgettable experience.

Heceta Head Lighthouse

Perched atop a rugged bluff, the Heceta Head Lighthouse stands as a sentinel overlooking the Pacific. Built in 1894, this historic lighthouse is a testament to the maritime heritage of Florence. Visitors can take guided tours to learn about the fascinating history of the lighthouse and enjoy panoramic views of the coastline. The adjacent Keeper's House, now a charming bed and breakfast, offers a unique opportunity to stay overnight and immerse yourself in the coastal beauty and history of the area.

Siuslaw Pioneer Museum

This museum will give folks a glimpse into the past, from the first white pioneers to the 1950s.

Florence, Oregon, is a town that truly offers something for everyone. Whether you're drawn to its quirky past, the thrill of sandboarding, the wonder of sea lions, or the serenity of a historic lighthouse, this coastal gem promises an unforgettable experience. So, pack your sense of adventure and your curiosity, and get ready to explore the magic that Florence has to offer!

**This article was written with the assistance of AI**

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Fun stories and interesting facts from the Pacific NW and around the country. With a focus on Oregon, I will also talk about various environmental happenings in the western US.

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