Yorktown whale wrap-up


On Thursday we finished up our excavation of the Yorktown whale, racing to beat a weather front that was moving into the area and which would have almost certainly destroyed any exposed bone. We took out several jackets, including one that was around 400 pounds and was going to be a real challenge to get up the cliff. Once again, the Navy stepped up to plate.

As we completed each jacket, naval personnel carried them a few hundred yards up the beach on a stretcher. But today we had a new asset available; the Seabees (Naval Construction Battalion) brought in an MMV all-terrain forklift to the top of the cliff:


Here’s what the whole thing looks like:


With the jackets at the bottom of the cliff, the Seabees attached lifting straps to the stretcher and the forks, and the MMV lifted them to the top of the cliff:




In the end, we recovered 17 jackets and several bags of material, which included parts of at least 16 vertebrae, both flippers, and numerous ribs; quite a haul for 4 days work in the difficult digging conditions of the Eastover Formation.

This was a massive collaborative project, and I can’t thank everyone individually who was involved. But I do want to specifically mention Captain Crow, the commanding officer of Naval Weapons Station Yorktown and Cheatham Annex, Bruce Larson, Trevor Manning, Rhonda Mickelborough, and Carol Peterson of Naval Facilities Engineering Command and Mark Piggot of WPNSTA Yorktown, who were the primary coordinators between all the different groups, Rowan Lockwood and more than 20 of her students from the College of William and Mary, and of course the men and women stationed at Naval Weapons Station Yorktown and Cheatham Annex.


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2 Responses to Yorktown whale wrap-up

  1. Doug says:

    sounds like quite the undertaking! So what all did you find? Sounds like more than just the vertebra and flipper.

  2. altondooley says:

    Nope, that’s about it. No evidence of any cranial material, and no clear caudal vertebrae. Of course, there could be pieces hidden in the jackets, but they would only be pieces, because this skull would be huge (over 10 feet).

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