Camilla's Blog

Camilla Mortensen is the environmental reporter for the Eugene Weekly.

How did we miss it? Yesterday, November 12, was the 40 year anniversary of the exploding whale. On November 12, 1970, a large whale was detonated on the Oregon Coast. It apparently seemed like a good idea at the time.

People have told and retold the story, and some doubt its veracity, but luckily, the whole thing was caught on tape.

Humor columnist Dave Barry made sure the tale has stayed in popular lore in a 1990 column that gives all the ridiculous facts, though he doesn't quote reporter Paul Linnman, who deadpanned comments like, "The blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds."

The Farside comes to life in Oregon
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 on 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 is that the whale would be blown into small pieces, which would be eaten by seagulls, 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 seagulls who had no doubt permanently relocated to 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.

What went wrong? Well, according to reporter Paul Linnman, "It had been so long since a whale had washed up in Lane County, that no one could remember how to get rid of one."

So logically, they decied to blow it up with dynamite, According to "The carcass of a sperm whale (often reported as a grey whale) had been rotting on the beach just south of Florence, Oregon, USA, for several days. At the time, the Oregon Highway Division (now called the Oregon Department of Transportation) had jurisdiction over beaches decided to dispose of the whale the same way they would clear a large boulder from a highway construction project. The rest is, as they say, history."

"I'm confident that it will work," said the engineer in charge of the whale removal, George Thornton. He also said he wasn't clear on how much explosive to use.

Well, he used enough so that, "Everyone on the scene was covered in small particles of dead whale,"according to Linnman.

If the footage is too much for you, there is an animated version. It's kinda creepier than the actual footage.

The Exploding Whale Animation
Uploaded by martynwheller. - See more comedy videos.

Friday November 19th is World Toilet Day.

Would clean friendly restrooms solve some of our downtown issues?

Portland has installed 24-hour solar powered potties and folks say it helps, according to the Oregonian.

For nearly two years, Portland’s first 24-hour public restroom — the Portland Loo, in Old Town — has been a couple blocks from Park Kitchen restaurant, where Anna Josephson is a general manager. And for nearly two years, Josephson has pointed noncustomers in that direction.

"Having a public restroom downtown has definitely alleviated some of the weight of accommodating nondiners in the area," Josephson said.

The city is installing two more of the restrooms and working on a fourth.

Some Portlanders were worried having access to restrooms would increase illegal activities, but apparently that's been less of an issue than expected, the Oregonian reports.

Portland-based toilet advocacy group Phlush was instrumental in getting the public potties installed.

For more information on the Portland Loo and how much they cost (in case Eugeneans decide to go to work on toilet advocacy), check out it out here.

(And potty humor aside, toilets are considered by many to not only be a human rights issue, but a key health and sanitation issue. UNICEF estimates that lack of sanitation kills 1.8 million people, mostly children, a year. )

Members of Connecting Eugene say they have uncovered an Intergovernmental Agreement signed by the University in 1986 "entrusting public institutions to protect the public interest by establishing an open and inclusive process for the development of the Riverfront Research Park."

Oregon Research Institute's planned new riverfront construction, planned in the 1980s has created dissent among many in Eugene who would rather see the riverfront used as a public space and for both ecosystem and human connectivity.

Connecting Eugene says on its website, the issue is not with ORI's work, but with the planning process and what is good use of the riverfront.

According to Connecting Eugene, public processes have been subverted in the planning of the new construction. "The university has breached their contractual obligation to involve the public," it says in a recent email.

The group says it is putting pressure on President Richard Lariviere this week to uphold the 1986 agreement. "This is our opportunity to hold the university accountable."

They have also asked the Faculty Senate to vote on a Resolution Requesting the University to Comply with the Existing Intergovernmental Agreement on the Riverfront Research Park at the upcoming Nov. 10 meeting at 3pm at the Knight Law School, room 175. They are asking supporters to wear blue shirts. Stickers saying "Public land, Public process," are available.

For more information Allen Hancock, Paul Cziko and the members of Connecting Eugene invite the public to come to the Mills International Center on campus in the EMU — above the soon to be defunct post office — Tuesday, November 9th at 2pm to learn about proposed development in the Research Park.

The Western Environmental Law Center has been involved with the issue.

Contact for more, well info.

From Lane County:

The Planning Commission voted, 6-3, today to cancel the Tuesday Nov. 9 hearing and to stop moving forward on the process to safeguard Lane County's water.

The Lane County Commissioners made the same vote yesterday, 3-2, Peter Sorenson and Rob Handy voted to continue the process.

For current news and archives

For Immediate Release 11/04/2010

Upcoming Floodplain and Drinking Water Protection Regulation Public Hearings Canceled

Contacts: Lane County Administrator Jeff Spartz, 541-682-4203; Keir Miller, Lane County Land Management, 541-682-4631

The November 9 joint Lane County Board of Commissioners and Lane County Planning Commission public hearing on proposed changes to the County’s floodplain regulations and a new set of zoning regulations intended to protect sources of public drinking water is now canceled.

Today, the Lane County Planning Commission voted 6-3 to cancel the hearing and postpone indefinitely the process to review proposed floodplain regulations and a proposed drinking water overlay zone. This action follows the Lane County Board of Commissioners 3-2 vote on Wednesday to table the proposed ordinances and process.

The action by both the Board and Planning Commission ends the current process and cancels future scheduled public hearings on the proposed floodplain and drinking water protection ordinances.

The Planning Commission also voted to recommend that the Board of Commissioners prioritize the work on floodplain and drinking water regulations and put them on the Land Management Division’s long-range planning work program for consideration sometime next year.

The decisions by the two bodies were reached following significant public interest and concern with this matter.

Clean water? Eh, who needs clean water?


Dear Oregonians:

This is the man many of you voted for in the governor's race (this statement of course largely excludes most of Lane and Multnomah counties).

Just picture John Kitzhaber's face in the place of Shaquille O'Neal and that is your election results.

To help you picture this, here's Kitz asking his 22,000 Facebook friends to give him some feedback.

He kinda looks like he'd really rather be somewhere other than on the street doing a Facebook video. Luckily, Kitz is apparently up for thankless tasks. Good thing. He's got lots ahead of him.

Want to be his Facebook friend? Go here:

Chris Dudley only has 17,000 Facebook friends. Leading me to wonder: Is the number of Facebook friends politicians have an accurate predictor of elections?

In other news if you haven't seen newly-re-elected Congressman Peter DeFazio's appearance in The Onion , it's a must read:

WASHINGTON—In the wake of what is being called the deadliest midterm election in the nation's history, Washington's sole surviving politician, Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon's 4th Congressional District, emerged from the rubble of the Capitol building Wednesday to announce his intention to rebuild the fallen U.S. government.

The events of Tuesday night—which included live televised images of Sen. Harry Reid taking a gavel to the head of Sen. Mitch McConnell while Rep. Barney Frank repeatedly smashed the face of Undersecretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen against a marble column—left most Americans believing their entire government had perished in the post-election bloodbath. But the miraculous survival of DeFazio points to a possible way forward.

After fashioning a splint for his broken leg and treating himself for superficial head wounds, a shaken DeFazio addressed the nation Wednesday.

"If anybody can hear me, my name is Peter DeFazio, and I'm a member of the U.S. Congress," he called out from a makeshift podium atop the ruins of the Lincoln Memorial. "I—I'm not sure exactly what happened here, but I want to assure the American people that we, or rather I, will get to all of your concerns as soon as humanly possible. I promise."

And it just continues from there, with a truly awesome last paragraph.

I love the "photos" but Onion editors, one minor, little detail, and Eugene Weekly mocking another publication for proofreading and factchecking issues does have a bit of a "glass houses and stones" feel to it … but …


DeFazio has long since shaved his mustache. (Check out KVAL's in-depth reporting on Mustache-Gate (clearly inspired by the fact the station was also running mustachioed photos of the clean-shaven congressman.)

The news source went straight to the top, Penny Dodge, DeFazio's chief of staff.

Dodge said the Congressman slashed the 'stach in 2007 "mostly because it had gotten pretty grey and wiry and was harder to maintain."

So it's the day after the election, and except for that Peter DeFazio beat Art Robinson and it looks like John Kitzhaber will in the end beat Chris Dudley, it's been a bit of a discouraging election. (I mean come on, a guy who wants to put radiation in your water had a chance versus an experienced non-wonky politician? A basketball player with no experience and worse yet, no plans, is neck and neck with a guy who's an emergency room doctor and former governor? The House has gone Republican? And I just won't say a thing about the Lane County Commissioners races. Sigh. This just hurts us lefty liberal media types).

Anyway, it's also the day Best of Eugene (which is awesome and you will love it) goes to print, the election ran late (for those of us determined to see it to the bitter end), the paper was huge and we're exhausted.

And maybe a little cranky. And parenthetically oriented.

So what better to write about than a dead deer?

I've had a certain interest in coverage by The Missoulian (hint is has to do with tar sands) that leads me to periodically scan that paper for updates and I came across this story about the poaching of a mule deer.

According to The Missoulian:

HAMILTON - A Ravalli County man and his friend are facing charges after allegedly poaching a trophy mule deer and then sending mass e-mails and text messages with photos of the buck.
Michael Don Gates of Corvallis and Justin Davis, reportedly of Portland, Ore., were charged Friday with two felony counts - unlawful possession of a game animal and tampering with evidence - in Ravalli County Justice Court. The two also face a misdemeanor charge of waste of a game animal. Gates also faces misdemeanor charges of hunting without a license and failure to get landowner permission to hunt.

Really? I thought? We get deer that big near CORVALLIS? Thank god that's not the deer I bumped with my car the other night! (I drive slow; the deer I hit gave me a dirty look and bounded away unscathed.)

But then I kept reading:

According to charging documents, on Oct. 7 a photograph allegedly showing Gates posing with an 8-by-8-point buck was sent to the phone of a Ravalli County resident who had seen recent video and photographs of the same "unusual" looking buck in the Corvallis area.
Gates did not have a permit to hunt antlered mule deer in the hunting district near Corvallis.
The concerned citizen contacted Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks game warden Lou Royce. In turn, warden Joe Jaquith showed the pictures to an expert in scoring game and received confirmation that they showed the same animal, the court affidavit states.
Gates' text allegedly claimed he had killed the deer in the Anaconda area while there with Davis.
The affidavit claims such a scenario is unlikely: "As Hunting District 214 is near Anaconda, Montana, it would have been necessary for this distinctive 8-by-8 mule deer buck to leave a group of does, and travel over two mountain ranges, a distance of about 80 road miles, in a week's time in order to be shot in that district by Gates."

Well, I just drove to Montana a couple weeks ago, and it was NOT 80 miles.

This led me to the discovery that Montana also has a Corvallis. I'm tired enough to be intrigued by this because Corvallis is a made up name which is Latin(ish) "heart of the valley." And all I could think was, why would people in Montana name a city a made up pretend Latin name too?

The Google is our friend, so a couple key strokes later I discovered that Corvallis Mont., is indeed named for Corvallis, Ore., by a French guy from Oregon in 1869.

And that my friends is your fairly useless fact for the day.

The Oregonian is calling it for Kitzhaber. (Our new intern made the same prediction early today based on her number crunching. We like our intern).

Interested in election results? For Lane County updates go here.

And for all of Oregon, here.

I've always wanted to have an "end of an era" headline, but usually it means the UO just graduated some sports star, an athletic coach left or they've built yet another new sports building.

Dear Phil Knight: That's a very nice jock box that you built for athletes, to the dismay of many students and professors, can you please donate some money towards keeping the students' neighborhood post office alive?

But I'm talking about the post office, that tiny one off in a corner of the Erb Memorial Union (where, full disclosure, I have had a PO Box since 1997). The office is small, the employees are little off beat and the PO boxes are practically vintage. I don't know what qualifies something as vintage, but let's just say mine is cool and old looking.

The Oregon Daily Emerald did a nice story on the University Station's closing and looked into some allegations that the whole process was maybe not on up-and-up.

As of Oct. 21, the day a letter to post office box holders went out alerting that they will not have to collect their mail 20 blocks away at Southside Station, the EMU still had not been alerted to to the closing, the Emerald says.

And the student paper quotes post office employee Ken Rosemarin on how much the office is used: "We have the highest percentage of express mailings than any other Eugene post office," Rosemarin said. "We sell a tremendous amount of money orders, and we have the highest percentage of priority mail."

The UO touts its large population of international students, many of whom are dependent on University Station for packages they send home and receive.

Me, I just want to know where the employees are going. I'm going to miss walking in to a small office, and having a mailman know my name and ask me how my dogs and horses are.

Questions on the post office closing can go to Paul Bastinelli, postmaster, Eugene, according to the closure letter.

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