Charlotte the Vermont Whale:Charlotte, the Vermont Whale

How the fossil was found

The whale skeleton was originally unearthed near Charlotte, Vermont in 1849 by railroad workers during construction of the first railroad between Rutland and Burlington. Thinking the bones to be those of an old horse, the workmen continued to excavate, destroying parts of the skull.

While walking near the construction site, Charlotte resident John G. Thorp observed the bone fragments in the dirt. Finding the bones to be unusual, Thorp convinced the job overseer to move the work to another segment of the project to allow for study and collection.

Naturalist Zadock Thompson of the University of Vermont was called in to study the bones. After returning to the site to collect all the bone fragments possible, Thompson declared:

Upon a careful examination of these bones, I ascertained that the greater part of the head, all of the teeth, and several vertebrae, ribs and bones of the limbs, were wanting in order to complete the skeleton.

After an examination of illustrations in Cuvier's classic 1825 comparative study on fossil bones, Thompson determined that the bones bore a strong resemblance to Delphinus leucas, the extant white whale. Thompson later proposed a provisional name: Delphinus vermontanus, until the exact relationship could be determined. (The present designation is: Delphinapterus leucas.)

Perhaps you wonder Where the fossil was found?

Copyright 1996 
University of Vermont and others. All rights reserved.

Brought to you through the courtesy of Enterprise Technology Services, University of Vermont. Copyright © 1996 The University of Vermont and others. All rights reserved. and
last updated November 16, 2009 WAW