The Whale (1971)

14 Feb
Director  Ron Finne
Producer  Teknifilm
Length  7 minutes
B&W/Color  Color
UO Library Catalog description:  Depicts the removal of a whale carcass from a beach near Florence, Oregon. Sound track consists of “The solo song of the humpback whale.”
Call # FILM Ma191
Genre  Documentary
Rare  Yes
Online  Yes
Copyright status Public Domain
Physical condition  Fair
Oregon-related  Yes


Despite accuracy, the University of Oregon’s library catalog description of “The Whale” is lacking. The “removal” of the 45-foot sperm whale beached near Florence entailed twenty 50-pound cases of dynamite used to blow it up, a decision made by the State Highway Division.

Finne employs an article by Larry Bacon of the Eugene Register Guard. The article paints the event as more of a spectacle than anything to be concerned about; though Finne’s use of somber imagery combined with the haunting song of the solo humpback whale connote different sentiments within viewers.

Interestingly, noted in another article from the Eugene Register Guard, a portion of the whales teeth and jawbone were removed before the whale was blown up. Scrimshaw, a form of folk art practiced by whalers in the 19th and early 20th century, originated before sperm whales were hunted to near extinction. Sperm whale teeth and bone were ideal for crafting pictorial scrimshaw, canes/walking sticks, pie crimper’s/jagging wheels, napkin rings, knitting needles, and various tools for shipboard use. This website has a number of pictures that detail various forms of antique scrimshaw art. Sperm whale ivory crafted before 1973 is legal, but prohibited after that year for commercial import in the U.S. under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

When considering Finne’s intent behind “The Whale” is is important to take into consideration the historical moment the film was produced. The 1967 discovery of the whale song amongst humpback whales made by Roger Payne served to humanize whales and contrived sympathy for the endangered marine animals from even non-activists. Conservation groups devoted to “save the whales” began to form and were compiled of average citizens to social radicals, of shoots of which include Green Peace, the Sierra Club, and the first, the American Catecean Society formed in 1971.

In addition to Finne’s film, this event produced a lot of interest internationally as newsreel footage circulated. The Exploding Whale website claims to be “the world’s most comprehensive source of information on exploding whales and related stories!” The site has uploaded original newsreel footage from the KATU Channel 2 story, reported in November 1970.

Notably, film for “The Whale” was processed by Teknifilm Lab located in Portland, Oregon. Frank Hood, a Tektronix start up employee who made his company’s corporate films opened Teknifilm Lab in his basement when he tired of waiting on the processing turnaround time from Hollywood.

Ron Finne is an independent filmmaker from Portland, Oregon. Other films of Finne’s included in University of Oregon’s Catalog include:

“Natural Timber Country” (available in 16mm format and VHS) and “Tamanawis Illahee Rituals and Acts in a Landscape” (also available in 16mm format and VHS).

2 Responses to “The Whale (1971)”


  1. Natural Timber Country (1972) « 16mm Lost & Found - April 19, 2012

    […] Oregon archives made by Ron Finne, a Eugene/Springfield, OR local.  We own films of his including The Wale (1971) and Tamanawis Illahee Rituals and Acts in a Landscape (1983) Share […]

  2. The Exploding Whale on Film | 16mm Lost & Found - November 1, 2013

    […] again. TV news stations recorded the event, but I prefer the film shot by another local, Ron Finne. He was a young, independent filmmaker at the time, having grown up in the Oregon landscape and attuned to the growing urgency of environmental […]

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