Pleasure Point, in Santa Cruz County, California MAY be widely known as a “world-class surf break,” but it is NOT widely known as a graveyard for whales. The fossilized skeleton of what appears to be a small whale, intact except for the head, has been uncovered off the end of 36th Avenue. Experts estimate that the fossilized remains are 3 million to 5 million years old and embedded in sandstone beds beneath the bluffs that are remnants of a shallow sea that once lay at the foot of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
“We never noticed it before, and I’ve been here for 40 years. It’s a new one,” said surf legend Jack O’Neill, whose home looms over the fossil find.
The fossilized bones are well-preserved and are upright in the intertidal zone, as if captured when the whale swam out to sea. The latest find of fossilized whale bones is the second one in three years. In 2009, a set of whale bones was excavated from within the cliffs during “armoring” (protection from the sea) of the East Cliff bluffs. The cliffs are part of the Purisima Formation and date at least to the Pliocene epoch. A mold of those bones was later imprinted into a concrete bench in the newly renovated Pleasure Point Park. More whale fossils can be found in the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History.
Tidal scour may reveal more of the fossilized skeleton, but as more of the skeleton is revealed by the water, more of it will also be destroyed. Experts are asking onlookers to leave the remains where they lay. The location of the remains will probably discourage its excavation.
“As it is revealed, it will get destroyed,” said Karl Heiman, an amateur paleontologist and owner of Caffé Pergolesi and Mr. Toot’s Coffeehouse, who discovered and helped excavate the 2009 fossil find.
O’Neill estimates that the next good viewing of the fossil will be December 11-14.
The find is drawing widespread attention. The creature’s picture has appeared on the Huffington Post website, and Griggs said he was interviewed by an ABC-TV station in New York City.
County Supervisor John Leopold said it is not uncommon to find fossils in the Pleasure Point tidepools.
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