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Gray Whale Thrills Beachgoers

A gray whale close to shore in Redondo Beach was just one of more than a dozen different whales spotted in the South Bay on Tuesday.

A 20-foot-long gray whale helped many beachgoers celebrate the new year when it ventured close to the shore Tuesday morning.

According to reader Sandy Bagley, who posted photos of the whale to the Redondo Beach Patch Pics & Clips Gallery, the whale showed up near the beach between Ruby and Sapphire streets before 10 a.m.

"There was quite a group of people on the beach," she told Patch in an email. "We watched him for over an hour and then followed him south to the (Topaz) jetty."

The whale may have been using the sand to scrape off barnacles and lice that had accumulated on its skin, according to a lifeguard at the scene.

"I've heard of this behavior many times before—such as off Zuma Beach, for example," said Alisa Schulman-Janiger, director of the Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project, when asked via Facebook if the whale's actions were unusual. "All of those parasites … probably cause their skin to be quite itchy!"

This whale was not the only gray whale spotted in the South Bay on Tuesday. Gray Whale Census volunteers counted 10 southbound gray whales from Point Vicente in Rancho Palos Verdes on the same day, bringing the total spotted from the coast to 192 since the official start of the season on Dec. 1. It's not known whether the whale from Tuesday morning was one spotted by census volunteers.

Averaging 10,000-14,000 miles roundtrip from the Bering and Chukchi seas to the lagoons in Baja California, the gray whale migration is one of the longest migrations known to man. The 30- to 40-ton baleen whales can grow up to 50 feet in length.

Four orcas were also spotted off the coast. Eric and Cody Martin of the Roundhouse Aquarium in Manhattan Beach confirmed that the four transient killer whales were part of the CA51 group, which has been spotted in the area multiple times over the last year.

The presence of the transient orcas—which eat mammals, unlike resident orcas found in Northern California—may have led a pair of gray whales to hide in the kelp off the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

The gray whales "rolled in the kelp, showing their pectoral fins and the sides of their flukes," according to the daily report on the American Cetacean Society - Los Angeles Chapter's website. "We watched them for about two and a half hours! Several times we saw kelp hanging off of the rostrum of one or both whales. One whale raised its rostrum high out of the water, like a sideways spyhop—possibly feeding. Some behavior looked like possible courtship."

Additionally, census volunteers "tracked a few fin whales out in the Redondo Canyon area."

Passengers aboard the Redondo Beach-based Voyager whale-watching boat saw eight fin whales, a minke whale, and common and bottlenose dolphin during the Tuesday morning cruise.

Noel Park January 02, 2013 at 04:44 PM
We were at Pt. Vicente yesterday afternoon and they put on a similar spectacular show there. There were a lot of people there. The whales were as close to the shore as I have ever seen them. It was almost like they knew they had an audience.
South Bay Resident January 02, 2013 at 06:21 PM
Back in the mid-nineteen eighties I was privy to an adolescent Gray whale doing the same thing right at the shoreline next to the Redondo Pier. It was fairly early morning and the whale first started out dipping down and rubbing on the pebbled bottom of the sand bar just below the surface. Then it moved towards the pier where it started rubbing on the mussel shells on the pylons of the pier itself. There were only about three or four of us humans watching this as it was still pretty early in the morning. It was wonderful to watch and how I wish I had had a camera then. Cetaceans are actually ensouled just like human beings. That means that they evolve spiritually the same way that we do. This is why they are understood to be such complex creatures...because they are in a sense, exactly like human beings. They are the "other" people on this planet and sadly, if we do not come to understand this, they will be gone before too long, and no matter how loony my fellow humans may think I am saying this, just because Cetaceans do not have opposable thumbs and therefore cannot manufacture plastic crap, does not mean that they are not sentient, self-aware beings who have souls that evolve like ours do.
John Kennedy January 02, 2013 at 07:24 PM
they are not "exaclty like human beings" let's see a whale build a hospital or drive a car -- they are animals, nothing more nothing less -- sheesh
robin January 02, 2013 at 09:03 PM
Dear John, You are exacty right!! Whales are not human. Humans are destroying mother earth right before your eyes and mine too. I assume you don't give a hoot.. Whales or any other animals are simply trying to survive..... sheesh. I assume you don't give a hoot either....
South Bay Resident January 03, 2013 at 02:38 AM
Didn't I acknowledge that whales do NOT have thumbs, therefore they cannot make plastic crap like us humans? And just because Cetaceans do not have thumbs and cannot speak our language, does not mean in any way, shape or form that they are not ensouled, sentient, self-aware beings. See? This is what I can't stand about human arrogance and ignorance. We think we are superior to all other life forms no matter what. WE are animals too Mr. Kennedy. Just because we can BUILD things because we have opposable thumbs like nuclear weapons of mass destruction doesn't necessarily mean that we are intelligent. Because Great Apes sort of look like humans, we think that they are smarter than whales or dogs or pigs or what have you. And because we can teach Great Apes with opposable thumbs to do simple sign language, we think they are highly intelligent creatures. Anyway, I knew that I would get some cracker making some unsubstantiated statement about MY unsubstantiated statement, HA! Anyway, most people on this planet are too full of themselves to be spiritually advanced enough to understand the complexities of spirituality in the first place. I mean, look at all the silly people still having "faith" in some man-made god and letting some of the largest criminal organizations in the world (such as the Vatican AND the Mormon church) run amoc creating havoc and chaos instead of actually helping people. Oh well...I guess I just have to put up with it all. What else can I do? Have faith?
John Kennedy January 03, 2013 at 03:41 AM
you assume a lot Robin...all of it wrong... EXCEPT if you assumed I don't give a flip about your assumptions you'd finally be correct
Noel Park January 03, 2013 at 04:14 PM
Amen robin. Well said.

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