It’s not uncommon to find driftwood washed up on the sand of Fort Funston beach, but what Elke Teichmann and her roommate saw out in the distance looked different.
After recent storms, pieces of wood had washed up on the beach, and Teichmann said she’d particularly been looking at reddish chunks of wood that she hadn’t seen washed up there before. As she scouted, she spotted an oddly shaped white object lying about 40 feet from the shoreline.
“It was clearly a huge bone,” Teichman told The Times.
Teichman said, thanks to a marine biology class, the object was familiar to her.
“It must be a whale,” she thought. “But I had no idea what part of the whale.”
Teichman took out her iPhone and began to take pictures of the object, which she said showed signs of wear and tear from the elements.
Robert Boessenecker, a research associate at UC Berkeley’s Museum of Paleontology, told the San Francisco Chronicle the bone appeared to be the braincase of a gray whale, the part of the skull that contains the brain.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, gray whales can reach 42 to 49 feet in length and weigh up to 90,000 pounds. The massive marine mammals are found mainly in the north Pacific Ocean, and during the summer some can be found feeding along the Pacific coast from southern Alaska to Northern California.
Teichman, who frequents the beach with her golden retriever, said she’d never seen anything like that before on the beach.
“It was just really neat,” she said. “I wish I’d had my big camera. It was just so beautiful.”