Another brilliant thread by Doncaster Council on why sometimes it is better to just sit at home and do nothing than go outside, and risk it all. Lesson learned.

First published in April 2020.

In November 1970, officials in Oregon, USA, decided to blow up a rotting whale carcass. The whole thing went horribly wrong.

Why do we bring this up? Well, this story can teach us 3 things about coronavirus.

The story begins when a 45-foot sperm whale washed up on the beach in Florence, Oregon, on 9 November 1970.

Oregon’s exploding whale. / KATU

There was some debate amongst locals about what to do with it.

1️. Although unpleasant, they could leave it to decompose;

2️. They could try and chop it up, and bury it (again, not pleasant);

3️. They could blow it up with dynamite and hope that seagulls ate all the small chunks.

It was decided that leaving the whale to decompose would be too unpleasant in the short term. No one wants the smell of rotting sperm whale when they are eating their Christmas dinner.

Fortunately, at least for the purposes of this history lesson, they chose option 3. They would blow up the whale.

George Thornton, who sensibly seems to be wearing a hard hat, was the engineer in charge of the explosion. By his own admission, he wasn’t sure how much dynamite would be needed to completely obliterate one of the world’s largest mammals, so he opted for half a tonne.

An ex-member of the military advised George and the other officials that this was waaaay too much, and just a few sticks of dynamite would be enough. They ignored his advice.

On 12 November, in front of a crowd of excited spectators (yes, really)... they exploded the whale.

Very quickly, the short-sightedness of the plan became evident. The huge amount of dynamite sent massive chunks of blubber flying through the chilly air, and it rained down around the terrified onlookers.


The overwhelming smell sent people running for their homes as rotting whale plopped down around them. The situation was dangerous – a car was even crushed by a huge lump of blubber a quarter of a mile away.

To cap everything off, the main bit of the whale stayed exactly where it had been. The problem hadn’t gone away, only now there were thousands of bits of problem spread for miles around.

So, why do we tell you this story? Well, as far as we can see, there are three coronavirus lessons here:

1. DON’T IGNORE THE ADVICE THAT EXPERTS GIVE YOU. They know what they’re talking about.

2. Sometimes, it’s better to just sit at home and do nothing than go outside, and do something ridiculous. Let nature take its course.

3. When you ignore expert advice and act like an idiot, you cover everyone else with decaying whale blubber. Stay home, and stop being selfish.

Tweets posted on 6 April 2020 by @MyDoncaster.

[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 7 April 2020 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

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