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A fossil whale was found vertically through several strata (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (A fossil whale was found vertically through several strata (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.

Claim CC335:

Near Lompoc, California, an eighty-foot whale fossil was found in a diatomaceous earth quarry. It was oriented vertically (standing on its tail), passing through millions of years of strata. Only a cataclysmic deposition could account for this.


  • Ackerman, P. D., 1986. It's a Young World After All, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, pp. 81-83.

CreationWiki response:

All in all, this is not the best example of vertical whale burial. A much better example is found in Peru, where you can find a massive grave of more then 100 whale and some other interesting finds at the same formation. (e.g. sloths)

L.R. Brand, R Esperante, AV Chadwick, OP Porras, and M Alomía. 2004. "Fossil whale preservation implies high diatom accumulation rate in the Miocene–Pliocene Pisco Formation of Peru" Geology, v. 32, no. 2, p. 165-168.

(Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. The fossil was not vertical. It was 40 to 50 degrees off horizontal, and the fossil was oriented parallel to the strata. In other words, the whale was horizontal when buried. The strata were later uplifted and folded into their present orientation.

The fact that the fossil was parallel to the strata was not in the original article, which was published in Chemical and Engineering News. The fossil was not completely uncovered at that time and the orientation of the strata was probably not yet known. Unfortunately, before the orientation of the strata was discovered the story got a life of its own. This problem has caused it to fall out of favor with most creationists.

2. There is no evidence for catastrophic deposition. The strata show laminations such as occur from slow accumulation onto an anoxic bottom.

Such laminated layers can and often do form rapidly.


A partially buried whale skeleton has been observed off the coast of California; it exemplifies how such fossilization could occur.

  1. The whale skeleton could have been quickly buried in an undersea landslide during one of California's numerous earthquakes. Even small ones can cause such landslides. It could have easily been partly uncovered by a subsequent event.
  2. Even if this is a case of slow burial it remains to be seen if the skeleton will last long enough to become completely covered and get fossilized. It needs to be studied over an extended period of time to prove the model, otherwise it's just typical evolutionary presupposition.
  3. The worst case here is that we have a draw in that the whale fossil found in the quarry fits both models.