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Gray Whale Breaches 50 Feet from Pier

The yearling puts on a spectacular show for about 15-20 lucky onlookers.

Eric Martin couldn't believe his eyes Friday about 2 p.m. when a yearling gray whale came within 50 feet of the Manhattan Beach Pier and put on a show.

"It did a head flap on the water followed by a gorgeous breach," he said of the year-old whale. "I could see his eyeballs from here, that's how close he was."

"In all my years," Martin, director of The Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium located at the end of the MB Pier, said, "I've never seen a breech like that, let alone this close."

The head flap consisted of the whale going "up straight. I could see his side fins and belly," he said.

After its performance, which included three dives Martin and onlookers got to see, the young gray whale stayed in the area to feed. "I knew it was feeding, there were all these bubbles and sand stirring."

Martin said the whale was finding food in the sand dollar bed. Gray whales are the only whale that feeds by straining the sediment on the sea floor. Martin said the whale was digging in the mud and sand for snails to eat.

The yearling was by itself, which is not uncommon, said Martin, adding that yearlings may not even make the full migration to Mexico, instead choosing to "hang out and stuff."

Martin first saw the gray whale about 100 feet away from pier pilings on the south side. To his amazement, it moved even closer for its breach.

Around 2:15 p.m., the yearling headed out into Santa Monica Bay heading south.

The only bummer for Martin was that he didn't have his camera with him.

  • Related: Southbound Gray Whale Migration Begins

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