The Times West Virginian

Community News Network

August 5, 2013

15 million-year-old whale skull found on banks of Potomac River

WASHINGTON — From the banks of the Potomac River, in a region steeped in American history, a massive fossil was dug up last month that apparently can be traced back to a time long before this country's recorded history, a time deep in the world's prehistory.

The fossil is the skull of a whale that is "approximately 15 million years old," said John Nance, the paleontology collections manager at the Calvert Marine Museum in Southern Maryland.

The skull is about six-feet long and is believed to weigh about 1,000 pounds. It was excavated in July from the cliffs at the edge of the Potomac on the grounds of Stratford Hall, the home of Virginia's Lee family and the birthplace of Robert E. Lee. The Potomac River forms part of the border between Maryland and Virginia.

The rest of the skeleton, which experts believe belongs to a type of baleen whale that has since gone extinct, remains embedded in Stratford Hall's sand-colored cliffs.

Stratford Hall is in Westmoreland County, and both George Washington and the country's fifth president, James Monroe, were born in the county, about 100 miles southeast of Washington.

The eroding river bank where the fossil was found is one of the world's few Miocene cliffs, said Jim Schepmoes, Stratford's spokesman, referring to the geological epoch 5 million to 23 million years ago.

Thousands of shark teeth have been found there, and the area is known to be rich in marine fossils. Whales are relatively common in the area, so the rogue bone has been found in the past.

"But to have such a large and complete specimen is pretty uncommon," Nance said. "In a marine environment, the bones are usually scavenged and scattered all about. . .. The really interesting thing," he said, "is we have all the post-cranial material — the vertebrae, the ribs, the flipper bones. It will give us a more complete picture of what these animals looked like."

Text Only
Community News Network
  • 072214 Diamond Llama 1.jpg Llama on the loose corralled in Missouri town

    A llama on the lam cruised Main Street Tuesday before it mistook a resident’s fenced backyard for a place to grab a meal and freshen up.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • An oncologist uses scorpion venom to locate cancer cells

    Olson, a pediatric oncologist and research scientist in Seattle, has developed a compound he calls Tumor Paint. When injected into a cancer patient, it seems to light up all the malignant cells so surgeons can easily locate and excise them.

    July 22, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 2.00.42 PM.png VIDEO: Train collides with semi truck carrying lighter fluid

    A truck driver from Washington is fortunate to be alive after driving his semi onto a set of tracks near Somerset, Ky., and being struck by a locomotive, which ignited his load of charcoal lighter fluid.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • mama.jpg What we get wrong about millennials living at home

    If the media is to be believed, America is facing a major crisis. "Kids," some age 25, 26, or even 30 years old, are living out of their childhood bedrooms and basements at alarmingly high numbers. The hand-wringing overlooks one problem: It's all overblown.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hospitals let patients schedule ER visits

    Three times within a week, 34-year-old Michael Granillo went to the emergency room at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles because of intense back pain. Each time, Granillo, who didn't have insurance, stayed for less than an hour before leaving without being seen by a doctor.

    July 21, 2014

  • Malaysians wonder 'Why us?' after second loss of airline jet

    It was all too familiar. Grieving families rushing to airport. The flashing television graphics of a plane's last radar appearance. The uncomfortable officials before a heavy thicket of microphones.
    For many Malaysians, the disappearance of Flight 370 in March has been a long trauma from which the nation has not yet recovered.

    July 18, 2014

  • A quarter of the world's most educated people live in the 100 largest cities

    College graduates are increasingly sorting themselves into high-cost, high-amenity cities such as Washington, New York, Boston and San Francisco, a phenomenon that threatens to segregate us across the country by education.

    July 18, 2014

  • Facebook tests button to let people shop from its website

    Members on desktop computers or mobile devices can click a "buy" button to make purchases through advertisements or other posts on the world's largest social network, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Thursday in a blog post.

    July 17, 2014

  • The terrible history of passenger planes getting shot out of the sky

    What is more clear is that, if initial reports are true, this would be the deadliest incident of a civilian passenger plane being shot down in modern memory. In some instances, the causes of the disaster are still shrouded in mystery. Here are some of the worst events.

    July 17, 2014

  • 130408_NT_BEA_good kids We're raising a generation of timid kids

    A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Featured Ads