Care to take a dip in the La Brea Tar Pits? Someone did…and YUCK!

So what’s new at the La Brea Tar Pits this week? Maybe you’ve heard. People are buzzing–but some with misinformation.

While getting a haircut this afternoon I overheard a woman telling others about the body found at the Tar Pits. It took all I had not to turn around and correct her, but she was having so much fun with the story I let it go.

No, there wasn’t a body. But there was plenty of activity. First, in case you’re unfamiliar with the tar pits, let me give a quick description.

La Brea Tar Pits

I’ve previously shared quite a bit of detail about this 23-acre park in the heart of Los Angeles, and you might enjoy some of the links and videos previously posted HERE and HERE.

La Brea is essentially an ancient oil field. Over the past century paleontologists have found more than 3,000 specimens, mostly saber-toothed cats, and it is called by John Harris, chief curator at the accompanying George C. Page Museum, “one of the richest ice age fossil sites in the world.” It is the only active urban paleontological excavation site in the United States.

The tar pits are out in the open and accessible to anyone. They are surrounded by chain-link fencing, secure enough to protect the public from directly entering the dangerous pools, but small animals and wind-driven debris regularly get stuck in the muck.

It never occurred to me that this site would be an excellent place to discard a weapon!

Well, very early Thursday morning members of the Los Angeles Police Department criminal gang homicide unit and Long Beach police and port police gathered at the edge of the bubbling methane pools, complete with metal detectors, high-powered magnets and sonar to map the area.

Methane Bubbles at La Brea Tar Pits

One member of the police dive team, Sgt. David Mascarenas, entered the pools as part of a joint investigation into a murder case by local and federal law enforcement agencies, and by afternoon the evidence in question was recovered. Details of the evidence or the case involved have not been shared with the public.

Mascarenas stated this was by far the “craziest thing” he’d ever done, noting the dark pools included protrusions of tar resembling small mountains. He also suffered brief bouts of sickness from the methane. At one point his fins became stuck in the bottom, and much of the equipment used in the evidence recovery was ruined by the thick and oozing petroleum.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood at the edge of these tar pits and thought about the thousands of Pleistocene animals that were trapped in the tar, and I never once imagined a human being entering those dark and smelly waters!

I will leave you with this short news clip to give you a little more of the story directly from Sgt. Mascarenas.

Today was Sophia’s last day of Kindergarten, and her mommy and daddy promised a trip to the Tar Pits and Page Museum next Friday. I was quick to invite myself to tag along! So I’ll have more from  La Brea next Friday, but we won’t be getting too near the edge!

I hope the weekend offers you a good opportunity to breathe a little lighter. I know I’m ready, so all together now…exhale!

45 thoughts on “Care to take a dip in the La Brea Tar Pits? Someone did…and YUCK!

  1. What a job. There is no way I’d be diving into a tar pit and I can’t believe he was able to find evidence when he had no visibility. I guess if you did want to make sure your evidence would never become ‘evidence’ a good place to hide it would be in a tar pit xx

    1. I think you’re absolutely right, Tricia. I never before thought about the Tar Pits as a great repository for weapons and criminal activity, but perhaps it’s already been on the radar for the criminal element! I hope this doesn’t begin to cause thought that the pits need to be further shielded from the public’s visibility. That seems to be happening more and more frequently. Because of the acts of some, we are all affected. Nothing new, I know, but it feels to me that the occurrences are accelerating. Shame! I hope you have a good week, Tricia–I think of you often. ox

  2. I’ve heard of divers going into icy waters, swamps, mud, but never tar pits!
    I’m breathing out already Debra. Have a great relaxing weekend with lots of smiles!

    1. I hope you had a good weekend, Cathy. I unplugged for a good portion of it. The weather was nice and I also spent time in my garden. I am in an office so much of my week, that when it’s the weekend I’m just starved for some dirt and sunshine! 🙂

    1. I agree with you about the tar pit diver being an act of dedication. I hope others don’t start using the tar pits as a dumping ground. They may need to now place a 24-hour guard there. Seems like a good place to try to hide evidence, even with skilled divers!

  3. I think I’ll stick to Application Support – never did like water much anyhow 😉 Lets hope the evidence allows the LAPD to close their case successfully 🙂

    1. I hope we do hear more about the case that precipitated this dangerous tar pit dive, Martin. It has captured my imagination a bit. We are told all the time how may fossils are in that muck, so to me the dive wasn’t just dangerous, but rather creepy! People have very intriguing careers! 🙂

  4. Congratulations to Sophia! A first grader now. Oh goodness. 🙂 Enjoy your outing with her next week. Have a great weekend Debra! (And you could never get me to dive into this – or any – tar pit. Ack!)

    1. Yes, Sophia is now a first grader. I thought of that when you mentioned your little darling’s graduation from Pre-School. I feel like we just attended Sophia’s culminating preschool event. Now Karina is starting her last year of preschool. I hope you enjoy your time away as a family. I know you want to make the most of each opportunity to do just that! Enjoy, Kristy!

    1. There are people with amazingly complex careers, aren’t there, Frank? You don’t hear young people saying, “When I grow up I want to dive into dark and dangerous places.” LOL! People are fascinating to me. I’d love to talk to this particular Sgt. and hear more about his career!

  5. Happy day to Sophia. I’m sure I would be inviting myself as well, Debra.
    What a story! We are used to hearing about divers here with Lake Michigan setting the stage for all sorts of activities, often in winter, and the many rivers and tributaries. A tar pit; well, that is something very different. These divers are so courageous, well trained, and dedicated, aren’t they? We don’t think of how they go in harm’s way to save others or search for evidence. This diver certainly is all these things. I cannot imagine the darkness, the smell, the gases and other elements – and that he found something of importance to the case.
    Late last night, we started to hear of the shooting at Santa Monica College. I hoped you weren’t near there, Debra, and was thinking of you and of the horror of that.

    1. When I heard about this Sgt. and his dangerous dive I thought of how well-trained they are, but then also wondered what made them go into that field in the first place. They are a rare breed. You’re right about the dangers of freezing climates and diving in Lake Michigan. I suppose this kind of forensic activity takes place all over the various regions and here, with weather not being much of a factor, I don’t think I’ve previously considered it much.

      Thank you for the thoughts regarding the Santa Monica shooting. We aren’t close, but my son works in Santa Monica–but wasn’t at all near this event, thankfully. I had the girls with me on Friday, so as soon as I started hearing what was happening I made sure we didn’t have any radio on. At one point later we did, very briefly, and of course, Miss Sophia immediately picked up on a few key words and started asking questions. Her attentiveness to news stories is starting to really kick in to where we can’t divert topics very easily. That breaks my heart–part of growing up, but I feel sorry about that. I don’t think they know, really, but some evidence is coming out that the young man was mentally ill. Perhaps another young one with emerging schizophrenia or something similar that had not yet been directly addressed. It’s a tragedy all the way around. The world feels smaller and more intimate when these things occur now that we’re all connecting so easily across the WWW. 🙂 It is nice to hear that you thought of me, my friend. I do the same with news stories now, and only wish I had a little better grasp of geography! Have a good, and very safe week.

  6. How absolutely fascinating! I had no idea someone could dive into a tar pit, nor that the police would go to such lengths to get evidence. Good for them, and I’m glad the diver was not seriously hurt. Our other house, where we used to live, is in the Miracle Mile district, so I’m pretty familiar with that whole area. If I lived there still, you could have come over for coffee!

  7. What a yucky job. I can’t dive in clear water because of claustrophobia. I can’t imagine having to dive in that icky stuff.

    Congratulations to Sophia on her last day of kindergarten!! I still remember my graduation vividly. May she grow to take on the world.

    1. I couldn’t imagine diving into anything that wasn’t clear water–with no visibility–I can’t imagine! These divers are so well trained, but what made them go into that line of work in the first place. They are a different breed! 🙂 Thank you for the wishes for Miss Sophia. She is an intriguing little girl. I am working half-day today and taking the girls to an excellent science-focused, interactive children’s museum today. I am more excited about their summer vacation than they are. 🙂

  8. Gosh, that’s what I call over and above the call of duty, Debra! Congratulations to Sophia as she gets ready for what we as children used to call Big School. 🙂

    1. I can’t imagine diving into anything that has zero visibility–or so sticky you have trouble navigating! Sounds awful, doesn’t it? Sophia’s Kindergarten year seemed to pass so quickly! Don’t the grandchildren grow up even faster than our own children did, Perpetua? I have a problem with that. LOL!

  9. That is an impressive dedication to his work, Sgt. David Mascarenas showed in this case. Good for the case and the trial, but I wouldn’t happily have done the same. Kudos to Mascarenas. Enjoy the Sunday, Debra.

    1. It’s true for me also, Otto. There is no way I could have been persuaded into the depths of all that tar and goo! I have never heard of anything quite like this particular “expedition” but it must have been extraordinarily important to have warranted so much danger and economic cost. I hope you, too, had a good weekend. I did…it just seemed to pass quickly! 🙂

  10. I agree with that observer, Debra. “This is insane!” I cannot imagine going in there. The real mystery for me, though, is how the officer found anything. He couldn’t see his own hands unless held before his face and yet he found evidence? Remarkable!
    Congratulations to Sophia! What a great day for her!

    1. I think the sonar must have bee the only way the evidence was found in those tar pits, John. I think the video was very good at showing just how really “awful” that muck is. I’m really sure that was very dangerous, and in some ways the toxicity would alarm me more than the actual lack of visibility and general discomfort of being in something so viscous! I hope we do learn more about the case at some point. Im just curious! 🙂

    1. I’m with you, Kevin. I can’t even imagine what it was like to go into that swampy mess. I am curious to learn more about the case at some point—whatever is being investigated it must have been important because apparently this dip in the tar pits was also very expensive, not to mention dangerous! I hope you had a good weekend!

    1. I have wondered about the “Tar Pit Sergeant” and whether he has attained some added notoriety with his friends and family since he took that yucky dip in the muck. Perhaps he has a little more respect now that others know the lengths he is willing to go to in his line of work. 🙂

  11. Besides the main pool, surrounded by fencing to keep out the adventurous, there are several small (very small) spots of tar rising to the surface in other parts of the park. And yes – I have ruined at least one pair of shoes finding them. 🙂

    1. Interesting, Keith! I spent the day today at the tar pits with my grandchildren. I walked all over the place, but I was mostly on the paths! No shoes were ruined! 🙂 It’s such an amazing treasure of a location, though, isn’t it? Thank you for stopping by!

  12. Pingback: Are you ready for your exhale? I think even Darwin needs one. | breathelighter

  13. maybe they didnt find anything and just say they did to persuade people not to throw their dirty stuff there.
    there are plenty of ways of disposing evidence but they have to throw it at a natural historic place.

    1. I do hope there will eventually be more updates on what they say the found in the tar…if it’s evidence in a trial, I suppose we may never know. It made for interesting speculation, however! 🙂

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