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Migrating gray whale hangs out in Marina del Rey channel [Updated]


Whale map  A California gray whale on its way to Alaska has chosen a channel in Marina del Rey as a rest stop, and marine officials are warning boaters to be extra cautious.

The whale, estimated to be more than 20 feet long, has been swimming and diving in the channel for almost a week now, said Peter Wallerstein, a spokesman for Marine Animal Rescue.

“It’s looking healthy, it’s swimming and diving,” he said.

Although the whale has made its way into the open sea in recent days, it keeps returning to the channel, Wallerstein said.

California gray whales can grow up to 46 feet long and weigh up to 40 tons. Each winter they make their way south to the warm waters off Baja California. From February to May, they migrate to northern Alaska.

“This one is probably a straggler,” Wallerstein said. “Some just take a little longer [to migrate] than others.”

Gray whales are attracted to shallow waters, where they rub the barnacles off their bellies and feed on small crustaceans found in the bottom sediments.

“Unfotunately, this whale chose the channel,” Wallerstein said.

Wallerstein and volunteers with Marine Animal Rescue are tracking the wayward whale's health while it remains channel-bound.

“My only concern right now are the boaters,” Wallerstein said.

Eleven years ago, a gray whale dubbed J.J. was rescued from the channel. Wallerstein said there were no plans to lure the current whale out from his resting spot.

“We don’t want to alter its natural instinct,” Wallerstein said. “And that’s what it’s doing. It’s exploring, resting, and eating.”

[Updated at 4:50 p.m.: Blanca Wilterdink was on her regular walk Friday along the Marina del Rey channel when a stranger stopped and asked her if she had heard about the whale.

"A what? A whale?" Wilterdink said. "I thought ‘this lady must be mistaken.' "

She saw something in the water but wasn’t sure what. So she called her husband, who raced over on his bike with a pair of binoculars. Sure enough, it was a 20-foot long grey whale swimming playfully around the Marina del Rey breakwater.

"It was such a beauty," she said.]

-- Ruben Vives

Photo: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (10)

Does anyone know if the whale is visible from the shore?

Umm... Where is the photo? Jeez, guys. It's a photo feature.

We had to opportunity to see the whale yesterday as we were headed out for a sail. I heard the blowing sound, turned and saw the whale gracefully swimming. On our return, we took pictures. Beautiful and incredible! I was both concerned for the health of the whale and the safety of my boat.

I suggest dubbing this stray D.W. as in Dennis Wilson. Superstitiously I believe this whale might be Dennis reincarnate.
I remember Dennis left us here and now out of the blue a whale emerges. Could it be?

The whale is NOT visible from the shore, but it IS visible from the north and middle jetties for the Marina del Rey boat channel, just north of the Ballona Creek estuary. You can access this area - and anticipate a long walk - either by parking at Via Marina at the south end of the Ballona Lagoon Marine Preserve and walk west on the north jetty (you will get to see the nesting California Least Tern flying to the channel and back from the fenced preserve area on the beach to your right; these tiny endangered birds will be plunge diving for fish in the channel as you walk out to the tip of the jetty where the whale is - OR you can park free in the Fiji Way Dock 52 parking lot, walk west on Fiji Way, follow the bike/walking path west and continue straigh out to the tip of the middle jetty)

For more info, contact Ballona Institute at 310-578-5888 or (310) 823-7040.

Sounds like the story of the mother and baby whale who wandered all the way up the Sacramento River in 2007! Fortunately both made it safely back to the ocean. Let's hope this whale also returns to its ocean home safely!

Check out the beautifully illustrated children's book that tells the story of Delta & Dawn at www.deltadawnbook.com

I was hanging out down on the jetty yesterday afternoon and was utterly surprised by the sight that awaited me! This whale was mingling with the boats and seemed to be having a nice, relaxing time of it. Lots of awed spectators, too. Made for a great afternoon.

I took my 6 year old son to see if we could just catch a glimpse of the whale.We caught more than a glimpse.It was amazing! We got such a thrill seeing it so close to us and watching it come up every few minutes.It turned into a game for us.Trying to figure out where it would appear. Ian (my son)called it Bubbles because that's what we looked for when he was going to surface again.I was a fantastic experience for both us.

Is the baby whale still there?

It was still there as of Tuesday evening (6/16). Haven't looked yet tonight.


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