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 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.
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!