Reporting Alex DeMetrick
CALVERT COUNTY, Md. (WJZ)– Here’s one that didn’t get away: a prehistoric whale trapped in a Calvert County cliff.
Alex DeMetrick reports it’s taken millions of years to surface.
“I saw a portion of a bone sticking out of the cliff about 3 feet above where the cliff meets the beach,” said Jon Bachman.
Bachman has been hunting for fossils along the Potomac River for 25 years.
“I recognized it as a portion of a skull,” Bachman said.
On a 10-point scale, Bachman says his excitement level was a 10.
“Because I had never seen anything that big,” he said.
It turned out to be the skull of a whale that lived here 14 million years ago when the area was under the Atlantic Ocean.
Scientists and volunteers have spent countless hours meticulously scraping away sediment, hoping to uncover the entire whale, estimated to be 25 feet long.
The whale is being removed piece by piece , wrapped in a white plaster cast and sent to the Calvert Marine Museum in Maryland, where they use dental tools to slowly uncover the whale’s story.
“We found a number of shark teeth with the skeleton, so there is a halo of sharks teeth around the skull,” said paleontologist Stephen Godfrey. “They may have been the sharks that killed the whale.”
He says the whale appears to be an extinct relative of the Pygmy right whale. It’s also related to the much larger blue whale.
Back on the beach, Bachman can still hardly believe his luck in stumbling across the discovery of a lifetime.
“This is a piece of Earth’s history that has come to light,” he said.
Indeed, it’s a piece of history full of secrets now being painstakingly revealed.
Those Southern Maryland cliffs are popular with fossil hunters, where shells to shark teeth are routinely found.