Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Of Tsunamis, Whales, Coral, and Sand Dollars

Today the newly-formed, real-life League of Extraordinary Gentlemen conducted a field trip to Santa Barbara County hunting for Miocene Epoch petrified whale bone along the Gaviota Coast as well as anything else of interest that might present itself. After stops at Gaviota and El Capitan State Beaches and a intermediate beach accessed directly from Highway 101 frequented by surfers and nudists, the group headed into Santa Barbara for lunch-dinner at Harry's and a short visit to Chaucer's Bookstore before one more stop at a fossil-bearing site in the San Antonio Valley of northern Santa Barbara County en route home. A wonderful day was had by all. Below are some of the highlights.

This one-foot-thick iron oxide-stained layer at Gaviota S.B. strikes me as being a prehistoric tsunami deposit (or it could be a turbidite deposit).
This verticality of bedding at Gaviota S.B. indicates a fault trace runs through this location.
This is a largish boulder of Miocene fossilized coral at El Capitan S.B. I wish I had placed my geologist's hammer on it for scale.
Note the presence of calcium carbonate stalactitic formations within the cavity at center of this image of the coral boulder.
Large fossilized sand dollar-infused stratified boulder from San Antonio Valley.
Fossilized sand dollar in San Antonia Valley excavated and discarded by a gopher.
Sand dollar-infused boulder at San Antonio Valley locality we visited today.
Close-up of aforementioned sand dollar-infused boulder.
Today's fossilized sand dollar finds.
My petrified whale bone finds from today. All photos by Kim Patrick Noyes (all rights reserved).


  1. Hi Kim,

    Great pics. REALLY like the petrified sand dollars - never seen those before.

    Had a question: The large hunk of coral also looks to me like a volcanic pumice-sorta formation. We get a lot of it in our creeks here. Are there other visual clues that show it's coral that you can't see in the pics? Not doubting your claim, just wondering if some of what what I see here might be coral as well.



    1. Jim,

      The material is composed of calcium carbonate and features the distinctive coral texture and structure and some surfaces and cavities had botryoidal or stalactitic formations of calcium carbonate. Furthermore, this region is sedimentary and not igneous. There is no pumice in this part of California aside from some volcanics up in SLO County but they offer no pumice of the sort even remotely resembling this boulder. It also helps identifying this that it was found near the high tide mark of the Pacific Ocean. ;-)