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Rare whale fossil pulled from California backyard



By MATT HAMILTON

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, California (AP) - A search-and-rescue team pulled a rare half-ton whale fossil from a Southern California backyard Friday, a feat that the team agreed to take on as a makeshift training mission.

The 16- to 17-million-year-old fossil from a baleen whale is one of about 20 baleen fossils known to exist, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County paleontologist Howell Thomas said. Baleen is a filter made of soft tissue that is used to sift out prey, like krill, from seawater.

The fossil, lodged in a 1,000-pound (454-kilogram) boulder, was hoisted from a ravine by Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department search-and-rescue volunteers. Using pulleys and a steel trolley, crews pulled the fossil up a steep backyard slope and into a truck bound for the museum.

Gary Johnson, 53, first discovered the fossil when he was a teen exploring the creek behind his family's home.

At the time, he called another local museum to come inspect the find, but officials passed on adding it to their collection. In January, a 12-million-year-old sperm whale fossil was recovered at a nearby school, prompting Johnson to call the Natural History Museum.

"I thought, maybe my whale is somehow associated," said Johnson, who works as a cartoonist and art director.

Thomas wanted to add the fossil to the county museum's collection of baleen whale fossils, but was puzzled over how to get the half-ton boulder from Rancho Palos Verdes, located on a peninsula about 25 miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles.

The sheriff's department search-and-rescue unit declined to send a helicopter, but offered to use the fossil recovery as a training mission. The volunteer crew typically rescues stranded hikers and motorcyclists who careen off the freeway onto steep, rugged terrain, search-and-rescue reserve chief Mike Leum said.

"We'll always be able to say, 'it's not heavier than a fossil,'" Leum said.

Join the discussion

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moovyz99 August 02 2014 at 2:17 AM

News Flash from Sarah Palin...

"This fossil is actually only 5,000 years old. It fell off of Noah's ark as he sailed passed Catalina Island."

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4 replies
fred August 01 2014 at 9:49 PM

Would still be here today if the whale would have listened to Phony Al Gore and quit driving SUV's and flying private jets.

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4 replies
Applez64 August 01 2014 at 9:56 PM

Wonder why they didn't want it the first time? To fred- what, you couldn't find a story to match your comment? Come On!

Flag Reply +3 rate up
2 replies
gerbersmail Applez64 August 02 2014 at 1:16 AM

LMAO! Well said.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
bullmesht Applez64 August 02 2014 at 6:35 AM

They pulled a boner.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
Gordon Goede bullmesht August 02 2014 at 11:26 AM

Bull, my man! Good one. LMFAO!

Flag 0 rate up
hotspringspark August 02 2014 at 7:34 AM

Proving California was once under water..there was global warming 16 million years ago and humans were not even on earth yet.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
rothhammer1 hotspringspark August 02 2014 at 8:16 AM

Try upheaval and subduction.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
doug August 01 2014 at 10:38 PM

TY LACSD S&RU. Good job.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
hmenglish1 August 01 2014 at 10:35 PM

good deal , it was recovered , piss on the fred's , just sayin

Flag Reply +1 rate up
wstokesjr August 02 2014 at 3:07 AM

What the hell does Al Gore have to do with this?

Flag Reply +1 rate up
boricuainmotion August 02 2014 at 8:54 AM

Beware of the so called dating methods, such as carbon dating Radiometric dating! They are not reliable dating methods as the evolutionists would have the uninformed to believe.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
5 replies
dwtomczyk August 02 2014 at 7:20 AM

gotta take a closer look at the big rocks

Flag Reply 0 rate up
rgkarasiewicz August 02 2014 at 9:29 AM

That fossil is hardly 16-17 million years old (which is assuming that it is a fossil at all).

Flag Reply 0 rate up
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