The North Atlantic grey whale has been extinct for around three hundred years. The only thing we have left of them are bones such as the ones Rita and Tom McCabe found. In the 70s the couple started finding large bones on the West Onslow beach, which they took home. Before the couple died, they gave the bones to University of North Carolina, Wilmington. After decades of being at UNCW the bones were donated to the Smithsonian museum in Washing D.C..
The large collection of North Atlantic grey whale bones were first delivered by the couple in their Chevy S10 pickup truck. The couple did not protect or cushion the bones in transport but instead had them all over the car. While initially the university thought it was a humpback whale, radiocarbon tests proved it was hundreds of years old. They believe the whale must have died to natural causes and washed ashore. The bones also have marks on them that could possible be from being butchered by Native Americans after the whale died.
The Smithsonian hopes to learn more about life in the past through the donated bones. What we know about the species is that they could weight up to 90,000 pounds and were last seen in the 1700s. Their habitats would be close to the shore, which made them vulnerable to whaling.
It’s amazing to know that bones can tell us so much about life in the past. Have you ever found bones on the shore? What did you do with them?