Cody Goddard reignited his childhood passion for fossil hunting during the COVID-19 pandemic, while seeking socially distanced entertainment options for his family. Their go-to place for fossils was Bald Eagle State Park in Centre County, where they came across fossilized trilobites (extinct marine arthropods), brachiopods (bivalve shells), and gastropods (snails). In October 2022, the family headed to the Calvert Cliffs on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, where Goddard ’10 A&A—a multimedia specialist in the College of Arts and Architecture’s Office of Digital Learning—chanced upon a 12 million-year-old whale skull embedded in a 650-pound hardened boulder.
“The boulder itself was exposed, but the sections with bone protruding were hidden under clay boulders and in the surf, so I had to uncover those sections to find the skull,” he says. “When I first saw how extensive the bone was in the boulder, it took me 10 or 15 minutes to figure out exactly what I was looking at, because the bone was so thin. When it finally occurred to me that the only place in the body with extremely thin bone is in the nasal cavity, I knew I had found a whale skull.”
Goddard immediately called Stephen Godfrey, curator of paleontology at the Calvert Marine Museum (CMM), who drove to the site to examine his discovery and confirmed it was a fossilized skull from the Miocene Epoch.
The skull is now at CMM, and it has been affectionately named “Cody” after its discoverer. Goddard has continued fossil hunting in the Calvert Cliffs area, unearthing, among others, a megalodon tooth as well as the lower jaw of the same whale. He’s also found a whale rib bone, whale vertebrae, and two inner ear bones that, he says, would likely be from dolphins. —Julie Engelhardt