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Baby gray whale 'putting on quite a show' off Malibu Pier

February 3, 2010 | 11:42 am

Whale Play
Sightseers are gathering on the Malibu Pier and TV helicopters are hovering overhead to catch a glimpse of a baby gray whale that's been swimming just off the coast for the last 24 hours.

The 20- to 30-foot-long whale showed up around 10 a.m. Tuesday, moving close to shore and within several feet of the beach near the Beachcomber restaurant. Although whales frequently travel through Malibu, they rarely make extended stopovers, said Joann Waugh, assistant manager at Malibu Outfitters on the pier.

"For Malibu pier specifically, it's a rare thing to see," Waugh said.

Onlookers say the baby gray has been playful, swimming under the pier and popping its head out of the water vertically and then sinking back down, a move called spyhopping.

"He's putting on quite a show, with all the helicopters flying around him," Waugh said.

She said mother whales may travel closer to shore so their babies do not have to hold their breath as long in the shallower waters. But the mother was nowhere to be seen, onlookers said.

-- Amina Khan

Photo: Baby gray whale cavorting near Malibu Pier. Credit: David Iino,  Beachcomber chef