George Thornton, the man behind Oregon’s exploding whale, has died

George Thornton, the highway engineer who supervised the detonation of 20 cases of dynamite in an attempt to dispose of a dead sperm whale on the Oregon Coast, died on Sunday, October 27, 2013, in Medford, Oregon. He was 84 years old.

Thornton worked for the Oregon Highway Division (later renamed the Oregon Department of Transportation) from 1947 to 1984. He retired several years before the Exploding Whale story became an internet sensation thanks to an article written by Dave Barry.

Many years later, Paul Linnman, the KATU TV news reporter who covered the Exploding Whale story, reached out to Thornton while writing his book on the subject (The Exploding Whale and Other Remarkable Stories from the Evening News). Thornton declined to be interviewed, saying only, “No, it seems like whenever I talk to the media, it blows up in my face.”

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