Would you be surprised to find a whale in a desert?  Would your answer be the same if the whale you found was the fossilized remains of an animal that died millions of years ago?

These remains can still be found today in the Valley of the Whales (Wadi Hitan), in Egypt.  This site is now a protected area, as a World Heritage site (UNESCO).  This area of the Sahara Desert was underwater millions of years ago, before the Sarah was formed.  As the earth's plates moved over time, the northern part of Africa was forced upward, pushing the water from this area into a smaller Mediteranean Sea. 

The two images are from the touregypt website.  The first shows the valley and the second shows a close-up of one of the skeletons found.



The remains of whales that died in the water fell to the sea floor where they became embedded in the silt and fossilized over time.  As more time passed, the fossils were covered over with sand as the Sarah formed.  This protected them from the effects of time and weather, so they are well-preserved today.  To learn about whales that are not well-preserved, see my past post about whale falls.



These fossils are a significant find.  They offer one of the few places on earth to find whale fossils, as most are underwater and decay, not fossilize.  These fossils can be used to study whale anatomy as well as whale evolution.

Hundreds of skeletons have been found in this valley since the first discovery in 1902.  This video offers a great view of the site today:


I would love to visit Egypt.  Now I know that when I do, it isn't just a historical exploration - there is plenty of science to explore wherever I may roam :)



The Science Spot



Add A Comment


Jul. 26, 2010 at 4:58 PM

That is so neat!  We used to find fossilized sea creatures, albeit small ones, in the fields of my parents farm.  We thought it was so neat to gather up fossilized impressions of snail shells & such.  Apparently at some point & time that portion of Wisconsin was under water and the rocks were brought up to the surface over time as the fields were tilled for crops.  Absolutely fascinating that whale bones have been found in the middle of a desert like that!

Message Friend Invite

Jul. 26, 2010 at 5:29 PM

Fascinating post.

We recently visited Whales - Tohora at the Museum of Science (the same visit as the ostrich skeleton activity).   It's an amazing exhibit and well worth taking the time to see if you can.

Message Friend Invite

Jul. 26, 2010 at 10:31 PM

BUMP!  Amazing!

Message Friend Invite

Jul. 26, 2010 at 10:44 PM

Absolutely amazing...But then again ALL your post are Tonya ;-)

You have my bump!

Message Friend Invite

Jul. 26, 2010 at 11:50 PM

Awesome, I had no idea!

Did you mean the Sahara?

Message Friend Invite

Jul. 27, 2010 at 6:41 AM

Mary - I have heard many people finding fossils so easily when digging.  I haven't been lucky enough to have that experience (yet).

Red Rowan - that place must be a treasure. 

heydooney - ha, yes, I usually don't proofread, so my posts have errors.


Message Friend Invite (Original Poster)

Jul. 27, 2010 at 6:42 AM

LOL - btw, Sarah is my littlest one.  heeeee

Message Friend Invite (Original Poster)

Jul. 29, 2010 at 10:54 PM

I got a little bit of motion sickness on the video. I kept screaming "Stop moving!" 

That was a very interesting post!

Message Friend Invite

Want to leave a comment and join the discussion?

Sign up for CafeMom!

Already a member? Click here to log in