Today, in honor of the 1st anniversary of the VMNH Vertebrate Paleontology Blog, I’m going to flashback to the first excavations at Carmel Church, in 1991-1992. In those days, it was the Caroline Stone Company Quarry (which was later absorbed by Martin Marietta). That’s me in the photo above, a few weeks after finishing my BA in geology, with Carleton College students Starr Johnson, Emily Darby, and (in the red shirt) Brett Kessler, who three years later became Brett Dooley.
In the fall of 1990, a VMNH team (including curators Nick Fraser, Lauck Ward, Jim Beard, and Richard Hoffman, and one intern–me) examined Carmel Church to assess its potential for excavation. Within a few minutes we found the first few neck vertebrae from a large baleen whale (below), and decided to excavate the following year.
Yes, that thermometer really is reading 130 F, although that was the rock temperature. Almost every day that it didn’t rain it was over 100 F. We also had a total budget of only $1500, so no money for backhoes; all sediment removal was done by hand:
In 2004, this specimen was given the new name Eobalaenoptera harrisoni. In 2007, a cast based largely on this specimen was unveiled as one of the centerpiece displays in the new VMNH building in Martinsville: