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All You want to Know About Whale Valley

Updated on January 5, 2018

Wadi Al Hitan (Whale Valley) is a protected area (Natural Park) located within the (Rayyan Valley) Natural Reserve in the Western Desert of Egypt inside Fayoum Governorate to about 150 km south west of Cairo the capital of Egypt. It covers an area of 1759 km2 and contains more than 400 fossils of whales and other marine animals which had lived there 40 million years ago. At that time, this area was a part of a huge ocean.

A Whale Skeleton

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Wadi Hitan (Whale Valley) Protected Area (Natural Park)

Discovery

The first group of fossils of the whales was discovered in 1901. Basilosaurus Isis Whale which is 18 meters long and a smaller whale (5 meters) of Dorudon Atrox were discovered in 1905. These fossils were classified as new species of whales in the Museum of Natural History in London.

In 1989, the team of Egyptian and American paleontologists discovered the first samples of the Basilosaurus whale structure and the Dorudon whale with their small legs and feet. In 1996 another 5 meters long whale fossil was discovered. The first mammalian mammal which from the elephant's ancestor which was identified as Moeritherium was discovered in 2005.

The geological team has located more than 400 fossils of whales, sea cows, crabs sea turtles and other marine animals in this valley some of them are completed structures.

Whale Valley Fossil

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What did Scientists Confirm about Whale Valley ?

Scientists confirmed that the whale valley is an exceptional site for gathering of ancient marine life. The Whale Valley area is characterized by a unique ecosystem of wetlands, geological structures, aquatic eyes and rare fossils.

Its Importance

  • The importance of the whale valley is attributed to the largest numbers of high quality fossils reaching more than 400 fossils of whales skeletons, crocodiles, saw fish, sharks and other marine animals which depicting the activity of these organisms that have lived for more than 40 million years ago, their life style and evolution over time from terrestrial animals to marine animals.
  • Fossilized roots of the mangrove trees which were discovered in the Whale Valley and confirmed that the area was an ancient shore line.
  • The area is the most numerous and the quality of the excavation compared to other locations around the world. As well as its presence in the logic of a protected attraction and represents a great importance World Heritage.
  • At the same time, the whale valley is a natural habitat for endangered animals such as white gazelle, Egyptian gazelle and red fox. Rare migration birds such as Shaheen_falcon, Gazelle falcon. Types of migration birds such as quail.
  • This area is one of the most beautiful places in the world because of the small sand hills and the sand stone rocks which formation of various shapes that gives the area this international importance.

What was the reason behind changing these land mammals to marine animals?

55 million years ago, a global worming occurred results in exceptional increase in temperature more than any geological age, which prompted some mammals to seek new habitat. Shore line was a suitable place to find food. Over time mammals peaces evolved to rely on the plenty of fish and other shore line foods, and so the need move under water to obtain food. This means that four legged land dwelling mammals were evolved to whales. This explain why whales as air-breathing mammals live in oceans.

Sand Stone Rocks of Whale Valley

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The Rock Formation of Whale Valley

Rock forms in Wadi Al Hitan .
Rock forms in Wadi Al Hitan . | Source

Geological History

The story of whale valley is related to the global change that occurred before, during and after the rock formation of whale valley.

  1. Forty million years ago, two geological processes changed the face of the earth, the first process established the old shape of the earth and the second showed the continuously occurring changes.
  2. Both of the ancient Mediterranean Sea and Tethys Sea (Tethys_Ocean) were locating in North Africa.
  3. Around (35 million - 250 million) years ago Tethys Sea was connecting between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean through the land of Saudi Arabia now.
  4. Warm weather prevented snowing in the North Arctic and South Arctic, which caused the ocean rising.
  5. The presence of the Tethys Sea in the North of Africa continued for hundreds of millions of years.
  6. If this was continuing Egypt was remaining under the surfaces of the water but after the rocks of Whale Valley had been embedded, the Earth's climate changed and this led to the transformation of many oceans into snow, leading to the dehydration of the Tethys Sea and the emergence of the Land of Egypt.
  7. After that the earth exposed in different geological times to more humid climate than we are now. Heavy rains caused rivers which were able to remove many rocks and sediments, which was probably the cause of the formation of whale valley.

Whale Valley

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Whale Valley Museum

The Whale Valley Museum was inaugurated on 14th of January 2016. This museum is the first of its kind in Egypt in terms of its rare collections of fossils dating back millions of years. It has an architectural in keeping with the nature of the whale valley, which helps to show the treasure of the nature. Fossils in the museum help in detecting climate change.

Fossil Museum at The Whale Valley

For The Visitors

Inside the valley the excavations were surrounded by materials from the surrounding environment and provided corridors for visitors to view the excavations without prejudice to them. The numbers of visitors to the valley are increasing, especially after opening the museum. More than 2000 visitors a year go to the whale valley by jeep and buses. Egyptian government has allocated a small place for camping inside the valley for visitors who like camping especially in the winter.

Whale Valley Fossil

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Whale Valley

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Wadi Al Hitan (Valley of Whales) UNESCO Video

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External Links

For more photos about Whale (won work) https://www.flickr.com/photos/stefangeens/sets/721...

Comments

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    • Emmy ali profile imageAUTHOR

      Eman Abdallah Kamel 

      8 months ago from Egypt

      Thank you very much Kenna. I hope you will visit whale valley and enjoy your visiting. You are very welcome.

    • Kenna McHugh profile image

      Kenna McHugh 

      8 months ago from Northern California

      A very interesting article, I'd have a long way to travel to see this place. I would like to visit, though.

    • Emmy ali profile imageAUTHOR

      Eman Abdallah Kamel 

      8 months ago from Egypt

      Thank you very much Mary. You are very welcome.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      8 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      I would love to visit this place. Not the usual tourist trap in Egypt.

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