Search and Rescue Report

Central Oregon Coast
By Andrew Bland

Historically, March is one of the wettest months of the year in Oregon but things are a little wacky across the US. California has been getting our rain and we've been getting their sun. So, with more nice weather predicted we decided to hit the Oregon Coast and visit a few exposures of the Astoria Formation (Miocene: 15-17 MYO) north of Newport, Oregon.

We met up south of Moolack Beach at 11 am on Saturday and all arrived within 15 minutes of each other. As we made our way to the beach we met Joseph. None of us knew Joe be he heard about our trip from another NARG member. Joe has been collecting this area for the past 4 years and has been working on a large block of matrix with many exposed whale bones.

I was at this location several weeks ago and as we made our way up the beach it appeared that a foot or more of sand had been deposited since then and most of the exposed gravel had been covered.

We reached the slide area we wanted to collect and Joe pointed out several 200-300 lb chunks of matrix that included several whale vertebra and ribs and he had plans to chisel them down to a manageable size and try to pack them out. I whacked on them for a few minutes but my visions of finding a nice Pecten had me wandering away leaving the hard rock mining to Andy. I'm not sure who brought the sledge hammer but Andy was soon making gravel of the block.

The slide area is very rich in many nice fossil specimens. The majority seem to be Anadara clams but there are potentially perfect Pectens with great preservation. Now that's a tongue twister:-) Other invertebrates that I could identify include:


  • Polinices
  • Mushashia
  • Crepidula
  • Ficus


  • Macoma
  • Solen
  • Panopea


  • Dentalium schencki

    I wasn't finding anything great so I wandered around the flats. After a few minutes I notices a small brown/black chunk sticking out. I knew this could either be a piece of wood or bone. I sat down with my chisel and worked my way around it. The mudstone fell away from what turned out to be bone and after 10 minutes I popped it out. Curt thought it looked like the condial part of a skull.

    Carol, Deborah, Curt and I decided to head south a mile or so to an area that has produces several species of crabs. We didn't find much on our journey but it was a nice walk. We decided to check in on Andy to see what progress he's made on the rock. The diet Andy put the whale on got it down to 200 lbs but it was still too heavy. They tried to drag it on a rubber mat but made little progress in the loose sand. We decided to leave it for another day but Joe wanted to try one more thing. While we waited I popped a few concretions in the area and found one with 3 small vertebra, possibly from a pinniped.

    Joe returned with 2 long drift wood tree limbs and wrapped the rubber mat around them to make a gurney. By golly it worked and we soon had a man on each corner and where making progress back to the trucks. It was still a heavy load for 4 people and after several rest stops we made the quarter mile back to the vehicles.

    It was getting late and we all loaded up and headed home. Home for Deborah and I this weekend was a nearby hotel. With such great weather we decided to say the night and do more collecting on Sunday.

    I woke up early Sunday and I was pretty sore from head to toe. My previously broken ankle and injured knee where swollen. My back and shoulders hurt from a loaded down backpack the day before and I had a few other aches and pains but nothing to stop me from doing it all over again.

    We made it back to the beach around 9:00 am but the tide was too high to access the area we collected on Saturday. We poked around for a couple of hours and found a few bone fragments and 3 or 4 agates. As the tide receded we made our way closer and closer to the location. It sure seemed like there was more sand on the beach from the previous day and in some areas at least a foot of sand was deposited over the course of the night. Usually in the winter the sand is scoured off the beach only to be re-deposited in the summer. Could this mild weather and lack of any strong storms this winter be the cause for so much sand? Even so I didn't think it could be piled back on the beach so quickly. A sand bar formed about 20 foot off shore from where I found the skull the day before creating a pool of water 2 foot deep with a layer of sand on the bottom where I dug out the skull. Wow, how quickly things changed.

    We collected for another hour and I finally happed upon a nice Pectin specimen. Unfortunately I left my chisel in the truck and when I tried to pick it out with my rock pick I could see that it wanted to fragment. I gave it a good coat of Vinac to help stabilize it and left it for someone else.

    Trip Participants: Carol, Curt, Andy, Bill, Joe, Deborah, and Andrew

  • Trip Pictures

    Astoria Formation
    Astoria Formation near Newport, Oregon
    Fossil whale
    One of the large chunks of matrix with whale bones
    Fossil whale
    Andy and Joe checking out some whale bones
    Fossil whale
    Swing harder Andy!
    Deborah walking the beach and enjoying the weather