Anniversary Post: 2004 Exploding Whale

Exploding WhaleOn this day in 2004, an exploding whale event took place on its way to the Sutsao Wild Life Reservation Area in Taiwan where scientists were going to perform an autopsy on it. This was not an intentional explosion. When organic material decays, without the presence of oxygen, it creates hydrocarbons — most notably methane. This is what happened inside the whale. The methane built up and eventually: boom!

Although many people were present to watch the transport, no one was harmed. They did get covered with blubber and blood, however. The whale was eventually transported to its destination. And the autopsy was performed. It seems that the whale was hit by a ship, crushing part of its spine, and subsequently killing it. It’s very sad. I always find it hard to believe that ships can do this kind of damage. But they are moving very fast, and there is a great deal of inertia in the water.

Dead whales explode reasonably often. But when most people think of an exploding whale, they are thinking of something rather different. Back in 1970, a dead sperm whale had washed up on the cost of Florence, Oregon. As humorist Dave Barry noted at the time, “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.” But things didn’t go that well. The officers loaded the whale with a half ton of dynamite, which blew large pieces of blubber very far away. One car over a quarter mile away was crushed. But luckily, no one was injured.

Clearly, care must be taken when dealing with dead whales. Although in the case of Taiwan, I give them credit for being interested in what had happened to this poor creature.

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