Saturday, June 27, 2009

Santa Cruz whale excavation

Well, a lot has certainly happened since I've been at field camp. A couple of big papers have come out, a seawall is being put up, and a whale skeleton in my field area was excavated.

Here is some footage of the excavation:

Unfortunately, won't let me embed the video here, so just go to the above link.

What is pretty funny is that the guy who found it (Karl Heiman) says that he did so five months (I apologize, this used to say 'years' - typo) ago. This is OK, as a lot of people know about this thing, and have known so for a while. But *just* for the record, here's a photo I took of it in July 2005:
And, if that isn't enough, here's a photo of me beside the damn thing that my girlfriend took in March, 2006:
I'm just happy that this fossil is out of the ground. After watching the video I posted above over the weekend, I talked to my coauthor/colleague Frank Perry (Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History) and he gave me the contact info of David Haasl, who is in charge of the paleontological resources firm attached to the seawall construction project. Haasl has worked with Nick Pyenson on the whale fall assemblage from Ano Nuevo Island, further up the coast (in fact, I should make a post on that sometime in the future). Haasl was pretty happy to find out that the material collected from this project could be incorporated almost immediately (it has to be prepared first, after all) into my Master's Thesis; apparently, many fossils collected by CRM firms and the like often sit around unnoticed for a while. Additionally, I informed him of another whale skeleton, also articulated, that is now covered up with rip-rap; when I actually get to California I'll head down there next weekend and show them where it is (in fact, I have already posted a photo of this other articulated skeleton elsewhere on this blog:

While it is unfortunate that this locality will be covered up indefinitely, I am delighted at the material being salvaged.


Brian Lee Beatty said...

Hi Bobby,
I think Heiman says in the video that he discovered the fossil 5 months ago , not 5 years ago. Either way, it is interesting how much attention this has gotten even though the specimen lacks a skull. After getting to know what Butch Dooley is getting regularly from Carmel Church, it almost seems strange to think of a set of ribs and vertebrae being found together as being called rare.
But I'm also really glad to hear it was salvaged. Carl Mehling has told me of many specimens along the coast there that he's seen for years, and it is good to hear that the local government is supportive of retrieving them.

Robert Boessenecker said...

Oh crap, I realized that typo - it doesn't make much sense in my post either. Oh well, I'll fix it. Yes, I meant 5 months.

By the way, I was working at the construction site yesterday and will be doing so again today - The hole they had to dig is pretty substantial. Then I showed them the other skeleton they didn't see; fortunately, it hasn't been damaged, and they are planning on excavating it. The engineers didn't think it would be too difficult, given my prediction on where the head should be.

Mel said...

Hey Bobby, I am looking for the dpt bear spray and can't find it. You have any idea where it was put? I looked in all the boxes near the field boxes food/coolers/etc. Let Callan/me know as soon as you can if you have an ideas.

Meredith said...

If you want any other ignored whales from site mitigations, come to Orange County. We have enough to fill careers.