One year and counting…

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.

Caroline Stone Company let us set up a base camp near the site (quarry safety regulations were different in those days), and we spent two months on site.

Conditions were atrocious:

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:

During the excavation we found that those first few neck vertebrae led to a substantial skeleton:

We eventually removed 14 jackets, although it took us into the summer of 1992 to complete them:

We eventually recovered 28 vertebrae, as well as flippers, ribs, and skull fragments from one of the largest baleen whales ever recovered from the Calvert Formation:

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:

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This entry was posted in "Caroline", Carmel Church mysticetes, Carmel Church Quarry, Chesapeake Group and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to One year and counting…

  1. Dan Omura says:

    Congrats on the first year of the Blog!! And it´s almost a year since last time I posted too!! I hope everything is going great for you and all the people in VMNH! Send my best to Brett and Tim too!!

  2. Alton Dooley says:

    Thanks, Dan, and it’s good to see you commenting.

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