The whale skull I found at Fossil Point. This is the top of the skull with the front facing towards the lower left and the eye sockets on either side of my hammer. The very top had worn away but it was more or less 80% there. Only the tip of the rostrum (the "beak") was missing. NARG performed a Search and Rescue Mission to retrieve the skull in October 2007. NARG named it "Wally" after the original builder of the property owner Edna's Victorian house :)
Here is day one of the excavation. NARG members from left to right Dan Olough, Robert Rose, Larry Purchase, me, Gail's friend I forget her name lol, Steven Bland, and Bill Sullivan
The skull lies in the upper part of the Empire Formation sandstone which is roughly 10-6 million years old (late Miocene). Jim Goedert of the U of Washington's Burke Museum thinks the skull represents a new genus and species of whale! We received permission from the landowner Edna (she owns the Empire Cafe at the end of Newmark Ave. in Coos Bay, on your way to Fossil Point & Sunset Bay, check it out for some AWESOME gourmet food & breads!) to excavate the skull, and she is donating it to the University of Oregon's Condon Museum which is the official state repository for important fossil specimens. We got a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers which allowed us to dig the skull after Oct. 15th, so on Oct. 16th, guess what? Right, we pulled in with a few dump trucks' worth of equipment and WENT FOR IT! Above we are just beginning the excavation, have a trench started around the skull and Robert is recovering a rib that was under the left occipital lobe.
Robert recovering the rib from under the skull. It is the only bone we found with the skull; the rest were scattered about the area.
Here is the skull with some more matrix removed from the rostrum (beak) and a bigger trench on day two. The pine needles are from the storm that hit that day & continued through Friday :(
Here's the skull after plastering it on day three (actually half the job was done the night before in a raging storm under a canopy)
Here is a vertebra that is probably not from the same whale that we found 50 yards up the beach. It's a nice one and has all the processes (those little spines) intact.
A vertebral disc (plates in between each vertebra) from the whale, at least we think it is from the same one :)
A rib bone, probably not from our whale. I found another in the rock just above it.
Here is a scapula (shoulder) bone, probably from our whale. The three pieces were found many feet apart on the beach by Andrew Bland :)
Robert Rose rescuing a bone from near the skull, it might be a digit from a flipper or...?
Day five, the trackhoe arrives :D We jacked the skull off its pedestal and the gang from McMinnville (they have experience with moving large fossils since they excavated a mastodon on the Yamhill River) lifted it for us so we could shave some more off before they drove it 1/4 mile down the beach to the waiting trailer.
Some of the NARG Search & Rescue Gang poses for a group shot. Andrew Bland, Edna, Jan Hodder (professor at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, and Edna's neighbor), Bill Sullivan, me, and my trusty BoscHammer demolition hammer. Never leave home without it, you never know when you'll run into something that needs demolishing!
The group from McMinnville moving the skull down the beach to the trailer
Loading the skull on the trailer. It will go to Andrew Bland's driveway for preparation and eventual delivery to the University of Oregon in Eugene.
Bits of the skull being prepared for study. The skull was in very soft mudstone that crumbled away when it dried out, taking the skull along with it in over 300 fragments :(
See this page for a very good article on whale evolution; the drawing is of a Miocene whale very similar to Wally.
Here's the final result. The skull is awaiting delivery to the U of Oregon and someone to step up and study it - we think it's a new species!
Copyright © 2007 - 2014Tim Fisher