Monday, August 27, 2012

For sale: one ancient Whale Brain, fossilized

How's this for a want ad?
For sale: one ancient Whale Brain, fossilized (needs good home -- for a good cause).  Only one other remotely like it known to exist anywhere in the world.  Incredibly important, with enormous implications for geology, ancient history, and the entire historical-geological-biological paradigm.  Slightly used.
Here is the rest of the story.  As reported earlier this year in a story in the San Luis Obispo Tribune, this amazing fossil was found by one of two twin sisters named Pepper and Peaches, in a streambed on their family's ranch in southern San Luis Obispo County (in California, near the Pacific Coast almost exactly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles).

Pepper discovered the skull about nine years ago, and did not realize that it was a fossilized whale brain at first.  Thinking it was a common coral fossil, it appears she used it as a doorstop for several years (see this writeup from the Beatrice Daily Sun -- Beatrice being a small town in Nebraska not far from the even smaller town of Burchard, where Pepper O'Shaughnessy lives [she found the fossil in San Luis Obispo on the family property]).

Then, in the fall of last year (2011), Pepper's sister Peaches Olson -- who still lives in San Luis Obispo County -- saw a photograph online of another fossilized whale brain which had also been found in the same county.  That one was found in 1940, and it too was unknown to the world until about four years ago, when its owner Bob McGillivray of Templeton (in the northern part of San Luis Obispo County) brought it to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, where paleontologists examined it and determined that it is indeed the fossilized brain of a whale.  When Peaches saw that, she told her sister, who took the fossil (now located at her home in Nebraska, where it sat on the mantle when not being used to stop doors) to a local university paleontology professor.

He recommended that Pepper take it to the specialists in Los Angeles, so she put it in a sack and flew out to her home state.  According to the story in the Beatrice paper, both she and the paleontologists in LA were in for a surprise:
“When I went to California with this brain I was just carrying it in a sack and when they picked it up, they said, ‘lady, do you know what you have here?’ and I told them I’d been using it as a door stop for nine years,” Oshaughnessy said. “The jaws dropped at that point. Brain coral is worth about $20 so I thought I would keep it as a conversation piece and when they told me what it was I about fell over.”
As senior paleontologist Howell Thomas of the Los Angeles museum explains in the same article: “It’s an amazing specimen because brains don’t fossilize because of their soft tissue.  The first thing I said when I heard about this finding was that there’s just no way. They brought it in, and sure enough, it’s the second of two fossil whale brains.”  In the video above, Howell Thomas can scarcely conceal his delight upon showing the fossilized whale brain to marine biologist Chuck Rennie, who has not yet seen the fossil at the beginning of the video.

Prior to the opening of the box containing the fossil brain, Dr. Rennie explains how amazing it is that the brain could have been fossilized, since the heat of a decaying marine mammal usually liquifies the brain quite rapidly -- so rapidly that dead whales today are rarely found with their brains intact for very long.  In fact, as Dr. Rennie says beginning at about 0:30 in the above video, "It is not common to see a reasonably intact brain in a stranded or dead marine mammal."

As both articles cited above explain, Pepper hopes to use the fossil to raise money to fund a west coast branch of the Brucker Biofeedback Center, which uses new and innovative techniques and technologies to help those with serious neurological disabilities, including victims of spinal cord injury, stroke, brain injury, cerebral palsy, spinal bifida, encephalitis, myelitis, multiple sclerosis, spinal stenosis, and Bell's Palsy, among others.  Her niece, the daughter of her twin sister Peaches Olson, was a patient at the Brucker Center (located in Miami, Florida) after a car accident nine years ago.  They hope that by finding a philanthropic buyer for this extremely rare fossil, they can raise some money to "get the ball rolling" towards the creation of another Brucker Center to serve patients on the other side of the continent.

The first article cited above (from the San Luis Obispo Tribune) notes that a Tyrannosaur skeleton sold for $8.36 million in 1997, and that "There are lots of T-rex fossils, but there are only two known fossilized whale brains, and the Olsons’ specimen is the most complete."  It is hoped that the buyer would donate the fossil to a museum for further study.  The brain can enable biologists and paleontologists to study differences (and similarities) between the fossil brain and the brains of modern cetaceans.

The rarity of a soft-tissue fossil such as a brain makes this fossil incredibly valuable to science (for more on rare soft-tissue artifacts, see this previous post).  I sincerely hope that the family will find a generous philanthropic buyer who will donate it to science, and that funds will be raised for the worthy cause they are working on.

I also believe that this whale fossil may turn out to be even more valuable than anyone suspects right now!

Its value is certainly driven by its rarity, but it may be valuable in ways that go far beyond that, because this whale brain fossil may fit into a much larger picture involving other whale fossils, and point the way to a radical re-evaluation of geological theories and ancient history. 

Back in December of 2011, I wrote about the incredible plethora of fossilized whale skeletons found in the Atacama Desert of Chile, located some 20 or 25 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean (along the path of the Pan-American Highway aka Route 5), in one of the most arid deserts in the world.  I wrote then that these fossils may be best explained by the hydroplate theory of Dr. Walt Brown.  In that post, I noted that other fossil whale skeletons had been found in San Diego and also in Paso Robles, California.

While geologists operating under the conventional paradigm of gradual tectonic drift are at a loss to explain the fossil whales of the Atacama, they fit with the hydroplate theory explanation quite well.  That theory argues that the continents are not gently drifting at nearly constant rates for millions of years, but rather that they slid quite rapidly one time, in the events surrounding a catastrophic global flood.

Dr. Brown explains in his book (a version of which is available for reading online), the direction of motion was generally towards the Pacific basin.  When the sliding continents came to a halt in accordance with the principles of physics, there was violent upheaval, buckling, crumpling, and thickening of the continents, just as there would be in the hood of a truck driven into a wall, creating the terrain features we see around us on our planet today. According to that explanation, the mountains along the Pacific edge of North and South America would have been caused by this event, and as they rose up, water would have rushed violently off, generally towards the Pacific. 

At the same time that I was writing that, Dr. Brown was also writing about those amazing Atacama whale fossils in his annual Christmas letter to his readers, sent out that same month.  About the same time, he added some discussion of these important fossils in his book, which can be found in the inset box entitled "A Whale of a Tale" on this page of his online version, towards the very bottom of that particular page (scroll down almost to the end).

As Dr. Brown explains:
The rapid continental drift phase ended with the compression event, the sudden compression, crushing, and buckling of crashing hydroplates. Mountains, such as the Andes, were pushed up within minutes. Evidence of that compression event can be seen in Figure 49 on page 112, in thousands of similar places on earth, and in all the "Seashells on Mountaintops" that are explained on page 49. Not only did part of the seafloor rapidly rise to become the Andes Mountains, the overlying water rose as well. It then drained down the rising slopes and back into the sea, sweeping with it stranded sea creatures and drowned land animals. Larger animals (whales, etc.) tended to become lodged in these streams, while smaller animals (fish, etc.) were swept into and out of ponds created by large animals damming up the flow. Sediments (especially diatomaceous earth easily swept off the rising sea floor) filled these ponds, fossilizing the larger animals.  Mystery solved. 
Now, these two fossil whale brains from San Luis Obispo County -- both found many years ago but only recently coming to widespread awareness -- may fit in to this important "whale fossil pattern" that stretches all the way from the California coast to the Atacama!

Below is a Google map of San Luis Obispo County, where these two extremely improbable (from a conventional framework) fossils were discovered, showing the terrain features using Google's "terrain" option. 
ad more here:

The county is informally divided into "North County" and "South County" based on terrain, separated by the raised "cuesta" geological feature and connected by Highway 101, which runs through a gap in the cuesta known as the "Cuesta Grade" (marked by a yellow arrow in the map below).  While much of South County is nearly at sea level (or up to about 300 feet above sea level), North County is much higher, with Paso Robles sitting at about 750 feet above sea level, and the uplifted ranges in between reaching elevations of about 1,100 feet or a little higher.

You can click on the map to enlarge the image.

Note that the ranges in several places do appear to display the characteristics of a cuesta, in which the sedimentary strata have been tilted upwards, often creating long parallel ridge lines sometimes known as "hogbacks."  The hogbacks of the California coast and their relationship to the hydroplate theory were discussed extensively in this previous post.  There are also long hogbacks under the water just off the coast running all the way up the California coast, from San Luis Obispo County to Half Moon Bay and also north of San Francisco as well (these hogbacks create patterns that appear to be part of the bathymetry that makes the famous big waves at Mavericks break the way they do).  

The first fossil whale brain, found in the 1940s and now in the possession of Mr. McGillivray (he has generously placed it on loan to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County for study), is from a toothed whale (perhaps a sperm whale) and was found in the North County, in the region marked with a black oval at the top of the map above.  The second fossil whale brain, sometimes called the "Olson specimen," was found in South County (probably South of the city of San Luis Obispo itself).  

The fact that these two incredibly rare soft-tissue fossils were found in relatively close proximity to one another seems very significant.  It also appears significant that there are other fossil whale skeletons found in this same county -- as mentioned in my previous post, there is even a winery called Whalebone Winery in North County's famous wine region, very close in fact to the area where the first whale brain fossil was found, so named because of the fossil whale bones found on the property.

However, the "authorities" will probably not piece together all these pieces of evidence to come up with a compelling explanation for this mystery, because they are operating under a geological paradigm which may in fact be completely incorrect.  Just as in a Sherlock Holmes or Scooby Doo mystery, that will require someone coming from "outside the box" and looking at the evidence from a different perspective.

Here is how I would piece together the clues in this case to form a possible narrative to explain the fossilized whale brains:

Just as described by Dr. Brown in the passage above regarding the fossil whales of the Atacama, the coastline where these brains were found experienced extreme forces that created rapid buckling and uplift.  Along much of the California coast, this buckling created long parallel "hogbacks," and in San Luis Obispo County, the Cuesta Grade runs right through a cuesta formation that is evidence of this violent upheaval.  A cuesta or hogback is formed by the sheared-off layers of tipped-up sedimentary layers -- see the drawing entitled "Monocline with hogbacks" that is the second image down in this post on hogbacks.  That drawing fits the terrain at Pillar Point north of Half Moon Bay in California, but it is also applicable to the geology found in the San Luis Obispo area as well.

You can see some evidence of hogbacks in the terrain imagery of this close up of San Luis Obispo County and south, below:

Going just a bit further south along the coast from this image, there is even more evidence of exposed sedimentary layers.  According to the hydroplate theory, these geological features are evidence of violent forces present at the end of the sliding of the continents, rather than evidence of very slow geological processes acting over millions of years the way the conventional theories currently teach.  Note that in other posts (and in the Mathisen Corollary book itself) it is shown that the ongoing alignments of very ancient human constructions such as Stonehenge, Newgrange, the megalithic temples on Malta and the Giza Pyramids provide additional evidence that the current theories of ongoing gradual tectonic drift are incorrect.

Below is one more map showing evidence of the violent buckling experienced by this leading edge of North America (according to the hydroplate theory), geological evidence that is germane to our investigation of the cause of the fossilized skulls:

The uplifted terrain caused sediment-rich water to pour violently towards the Pacific Ocean, carrying the unfortunate sea life along with it.  As Dr. Brown explains in the passage cited above, smaller fishes and sea creatures washed all the way out to the Pacific, but many large creatures including whales would not have been so successful, getting trapped along the way by their huge bulk, particularly among the maze-like patterns that are evident in the terrain of San Luis Obispo County.

In the North County, where the first fossil skull was found, there are numerous little valleys and microclimes that create a superlative wine-growing region.  The soil is also very calcareous (there is in fact a winery called Calcareous not far from the location of Whalebone Winery and not far from the North County skull fossil's discovery), conducive to growing wine grapes.  The whales that now make up the fossils in that area were probably trapped (along with tons of sediments) in this "washboard" of nooks and crannies.  The map below is a close-up of the area where the North County skull was found in the 1940s.  The San Luis Obispo Tribune story states that it was found where Halter Ranch (now a winery as well) is located today.  All three points are marked on the map below (Halter Ranch, Calcareous, and Whalebone):

Looking at the map (click to enlarge, or better yet go to Google Maps and look up Paso Robles, CA and turn on the "terrain" button and explore the wine-producing area all around it), one can easily see how whales carried along with torrents of water might have gotten trapped in the maze-like terrain and been buried in the sediments that still form much of the soil there today.  In fact, if you look at the terrain in the area of the arrows above (and zoom in on those areas using Google Maps for yourself), you may get the feeling that the entire area looks a bit like a fossilized brain, or many little fossilized brains!

According to this thesis, then, the whales were rapidly buried and preserved (this is a requisite for almost any fossil, by the way -- for more discussion see also this previous post).  Because these whales met a rather violent death, it is possible that in some cases their bodies were torn apart in the process.  In the case of these two fossils, the power of the rushing water and the violent contact with whatever terrain they ended up lodging in may have ripped open their bodies, exposing the brain and skull (the force of the water being not quite powerful enough to rip their heads clean off).  As more calcareous sediments piled up over them, the limey chalky blanket preserved and fossilized the brains.

Although this thesis may sound shockingly different from anything expected under the conventional paradigm, note that the conventional paradigm has an exceedingly hard time explaining these fossils.  Note also that the hydroplate theory neatly connects the whale-fossil evidence found in the Atacama as well as in San Luis Obispo, and that in fact the fossils are about the same distance from the coast in both cases, and on elevated terrain that is thick with calcareous sediments.  The fact that the two brains are from different types of whales (the North County specimen being a toothed whale and the South County belonging to a baleen whale) is also consistent with the Atacama mass-whale graveyard site, which contains many whales of both types, and which may be another indication of a connection between the fossil evidence in Chile and in California.

Further, note that the geological terrain of San Luis Obispo County and surrounding regions fits the hydroplate theory explanation (with its evidence of powerful upheaval, which conventional theorists attribute to slow tectonic uplift but which the hydroplate theory attributes to the same violent circumstances that led to the death and burial of the whales).  Finally, note that when Dr. Brown was developing and publishing this theory, neither the fossil whales of the Atacama nor the fossil brains of San Luis Obispo County were known -- these whale-fossil clues were found later, and they fit the theory extremely well.

In other words, it may turn out that the discovery of this second whale brain proves that the first was not just some archaeological fluke (ha ha), but a critical piece of a continent-spanning series of whale-related clues.  This evidence powerfully supports the hydroplate theory, in addition to all the other varied evidence from around the globe (and indeed from around the solar system). 

With all that in mind, it appears that Pepper O'Shaughnessy's doorstop is actually an invaluable find -- one that might help rewrite the history of our planet, and of the human race.

We should all wish her and the Olson family the very best in finding a buyer for this incredible artifact, and continued recovery and health for Tara Olson as well.  

Please share their story as widely as you possibly can.