This Is Second Giant Skull Washes Up On Beach In San Francisco, California

Margie Jones

What would you do after finding a 400-pound whale skull?

A female gray whale likely killed by a ship and found near Muir Beach will have its 400-pound skull repurposed as an educational tool in the Presidio’s Field Station. (National Park Service)

This January, California experienced historic storms that slammed the coastline with waves up to 50 feet high. The incredible surf washed many interesting things up onto the sand, but probably none more poignant than the massive skull of a gray whale on Muir Beach.

The skull weighs approximately 400 pounds, not surprising given that gray whales – which travel near the California coastline on their migration between Mexico and the Arctic – typically are more than 50,000 lbs and are 40 feet long. And it just so happened, marine researchers already knew the creature it belonged to: a 38-foot female likely killed in a ship strike near the Golden Gate Bridge last spring, whose body washed up on nearby Little Beach.

The logistics of moving the carcass proved daunting, so the decision was made to let the whale decompose naturally. That way it could keep on giving back after death, a spokesman for the Marine Mammal Center said, as natural decomposition “provides a substantial source of food for small forage fish, birds, crustaceans, small land-based predators and nitrogen back into the ecosystem.”

Now the whale’s skull will provide even more value. A National Park Service staffer decided that the “Presidio Field Station, a new park curiosity lab at Presidio Tunnel Tops, would be an ideal place to share it and its story with the public,” says Damien Raffa, a senior park experience and partnerships specialist at the Presidio Trust. Volunteers working with the National Park Service bundled the skull onto a truck and carted it over to San Francisco where it will go on exhibit.

“These are now the largest bones in the Presidio Field Station’s collection, and we hope that its presence sparks wonder about these aquatic giants that are ancient migrants along the Golden Gate,” says Raffa. “We’re honored to be its caretaker and to be able to share this beautiful planetary life form with park visitors.”

What would you do after finding a 400-pound whale skull?

Volunteers help transport the skull of a gray whale killed by a ship from Muir Beach to the Presidio Field Station. (National Park Service)

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