Dave Barry’s "Farside" article

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The following article was written by syndicated humor columnist Dave Barry of the Miami Herald newspaper. Even though the exploding whale event took place in 1970, Dave Barry didn’t actually hear about it until 1990, after which the incident began to receive much broader attention. The story was considered an urban legend by most people, though. By 1994 the exploding whale had worked its way onto the Internet in the form of an uncredited version of Dave Barry’s article. Amazingly, many news bureaus actually reported the incident as though it had just happened.

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The Farside Comes to Life in Oregon

By Dave Barry (1990)

By Dave Barry

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I am absolutely not making this incident up; in fact I have it all on videotape. The tape is from a local TV news show in Oregon, which sent a reporter out to cover the removal of a 45-foot, eight-ton dead whale that washed up on the beach. The responsibility for getting rid of the carcass was placed upon the Oregon State Highway Division, apparently on the theory that highways and whales are very similar in the sense of being large objects.

So anyway, the highway engineers hit upon the plan — remember, I am not making this up — of blowing up the whale with dynamite. The thinking here was that the whale would be blown into small pieces, which would be eaten by sea gulls, and that would be that. A textbook whale removal.

So they moved the spectators back up the beach, put a half-ton of dynamite next to the whale and set it off. I am probably not guilty of understatement when I say that what follows, on the videotape, is the most wonderful event in the history of the universe. First you see the whale carcass disappear in a huge blast of smoke and flame. Then you hear the happy spectators shouting “Yayy!” and “Whee!” Then, suddenly, the crowd’s tone changes. You hear a new sound like “splud.” You hear a woman’s voice shouting “Here come pieces of… MY GOD!” Something smears the camera lens.

Later, the reporter explains: “The humor of the entire situation suddenly gave way to a run for survival as huge chunks of whale blubber fell everywhere.” One piece caved in the roof of a car parked more than a quarter of a mile away. Remaining on the beach were several rotting whale sectors the size of condominium units. There was no sign of the sea gulls, who had no doubt permanently relocated in Brazil. This is a very sobering videotape. Here at the institute we watch it often, especially at parties. But this is no time for gaiety. This is a time to get hold of the folks at the Oregon State Highway division and ask them, when they get done cleaning up the beaches, to give us an estimate on the US Capitol.


© 1990 Miami Herald