While plenty of politicians in Washington have “big heads,” none come near the 6-foot long, one ton whale skull dug out of the cliffs on the grounds of Stratford Hall at the edge of the Potomac River July 20th.
Stratford Hall, the birthplace of Robert E. Lee, is located in Westmoreland County, and lies approximately 100 miles southeast of our nation’s capital. The county is also where both Presidents George Washington and James Monroe were born.
The massive skull is believed to belong to an extinct member of the baleen whale family, was found in one of the world’s few Miocene* cliffs, according to Stratford Hall spokesman Jim Schepmoes, who believes the rest of the skeleton still likes in the eroding sand-colored cliff.
Once excavated, the skull was wrapped in plaster and burlap and lashed to metal poles before being transported to the Calvert Marine Museum in southern Maryland, where it is now being studied according to John Nance, the facility’s manager of the paleontology collection. He also noted that the area where it was found is considered a “goldmine” of marine fossils, and has already given up thousands of sharks teeth.
“Still, to have such a large and complete specimen is pretty uncommon,” he exclaimed. “In a marine environment, the bones are usually scavenged and scattered all about. The really interesting thing is we have all the post-cranial material, the vertebrae, ribs and flipper bones which will give us a more complete picture of what these animals looked like.”
*The Miocene era lasted 5 million to 23 million years ago.