A baby California gray whale was stranded for about an hour in shallow waters along Silver Strand Beach near Oxnard on Tuesday night before the tide lifted it back to freedom, authorities said.
A Silver Strand resident, who is an off-duty Los Angeles County lifeguard, first alerted authorities when he and other beach-goers discovered the 20- to 25-foot whale stuck in about 4 feet of water at about 7:30 p.m.
"It was up on the beach tossing and turning," said Jeremy Wallace, who was the first to call the authorities. "I called 911, but they didn't know what to do."
Coast Guard officials arrived in a cutter ship about 45 minutes later. However, even they were temporarily baffled by the rare beaching.
"It's not something we usually deal with," Petty Officer Ken Millson said.
At one point, Coast Guard officials on the boat and shore were going to try to lasso the whale and drag it off the sand bar, Millson said. "Fortunately, the current dragged it back out," he said.
California gray whales migrate along the California coast, but usually stick to deeper waters, said Chris Long, a warden with the California Department of Fish and Game. "Maybe it was sick or injured or it could be just lost," Long said.
At 9 p.m., beach-goers continued to spot the baby whale not far off the coast.
Wallace, who said he had dealt with beachings of this type as a lifeguard, said there was a good chance the whale would beach itself again.