Search-and-rescue team helps scientists pull rare whale fossil from California backyard

Matt Hamilton / The Associated Press
August 1, 2014 04:02 PM

Members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue team, Mike Leum, left, John McKently, center, and Janet Henderson, right, help to roll a 16-17-million-year-old fossil lodged in a rock weighing about 2,000 pounds up a steep hillside on a customized cart in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. on Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. The Palos Verdes Peninsula was once an ocean bottom that over eons has risen hundreds of feet above the Pacific. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. - A rare whale fossil has been pulled from a Southern California backyard.

Paleontologist Howell Thomas of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County says the 16- to 17-million-year-old baleen whale fossil is one of about 20 baleen whale fossils known to exist.

The fossil, lodged in 1,000-pound (454-kilogram) rock, 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.

The fossil was discovered by 53-year-old Gary Johnson when he was a teen exploring the creek behind his family's home. Johnson called Thomas after a whale fossil was recovered in January at a nearby school.


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