"Dozer, not dynamite..."


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Bob updates readers on the fate of the 40-foot gray whale carcass that washed up on an Oregon beach in May 2007. Of course, he can’t let the moment pass without a reference to Oregon’s original exploding whale.

Dozer, not dynamite, eases whale’s final passage

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Register-Guard

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Where Are They Now?” is a Monday column that updates readers on local newsmakers from the past.

Have ideas? E-mail Bob Welch at bwelch@guardnet.com.

THEN: A 40-foot-long gray whale, dead for a few days, washed ashore just north of Seal Rock, near Newport, on Memorial Day weekend. The whale triggered more gawkers than usual because so many people were vacationing on the beach and because it was so accessible.

NOW: First, rest easy: The whale was not blown up with dynamite, one of those seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time methods used in 1970 in Florence -- that wound up busting car windshields and triggering lawsuits.

Instead, a large bulldozer pushed it about 100 yards north of the rocky beach, where it had come ashore, and buried it. But, then, this is Oregon, a state that had to call in the Navy when the bow of the New Carissa, having washed ashore near Waldport, wouldn’t sink even after it was towed to sea.

And so it was that an overnight tide washed out so much sand that about a third of the whale was exposed. Five days later, Oregon State Parks officials had the whale moved 500 yards farther north, above the tide line, and reburied.

“You can’t tow a 30-ton whale out to sea,” says John Allen, the state parks’ north coast region manager.

Beyond difficulty getting it buried, park officials had to deal with people who were cutting off parts of the whale for souvenirs – or for sale.

“We found out people were trying to sell stuff on Craigslist,” said Todd Thompson of the Oregon State Police in Newport.

Among the items: baleen, the straw-like fiber whales use to filter food from the water.

Nobody has been arrested in connection with the sale of such items, he said.

Jim Rice, the marine mammal stranding coordinator for the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, said people need to understand the seriousness of tampering with a dead whale. “This is a federally protected species, and handling it without permission is a federal offense,” he said.

Violators of the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act could face fines of up to $10,000.

© 2007 Register-Guard