Last week I visited Palliser Bay in the Wairarapa. Along the coastline there are many exposures of mudstone from the Hurupi Formation, about 11 to 8 million years old.
These mudstones contain abundant marine shell fossils, but are also known for occasional whale bones. After some time searching, as luck would have it, I found a large piece of bone sticking out of the mud near the base of one of the cliffs.
Here you can see the typical mottled texture and brown colour of fossil bone. This is the largest piece, half a metre long and about 25 cms across.
There is an epifauna of bivalve and barnacle fossils attached to the bones. This tells us that they would have been lying in calm, relatively shallow water before they were buried by sediment. There are also several wood fragments in the surrounding clay, which suggests that the whale died not far from land.
After many hours of cleaning, some interesting grooves appeared in the bones. These show where blood vessels were embedded alongside the bone.
For an update on additional whale bone discoveries from this locality check out this blog post.