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Whale corpse washes ashore for the third time

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Times Staff Writer

After rolling onto a Malibu beach Thursday morning, the rotting remains of a 60-ton blue whale were towed out to sea hours later -- the third time in less than two weeks that officials have tried to find a permanent resting place for the corpse.

To the relief of residents in the nearby star-studded Malibu Colony, Los Angeles County lifeguards towed the putrefying mass of flesh 15 to 20 miles offshore -- just as they had four days earlier.

“We don’t weigh it down,” said Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Terry Harvey, a spokesman for the lifeguards. “We let it be in its natural environment and decompose naturally.”

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The dead whale initially was found in the Santa Barbara Channel and towed to a beach at Naval Base Ventura County on Sept. 22 for detailed examination by scientists.

At day’s end, the cut-up carcass, depleted of natural gases and many of its internal organs, was dragged from the beach at Point Mugu and out to sea, where scientists presumed it would sink.

They were wrong.

The odoriferous hulk washed ashore at Malibu’s Broad Beach on Sunday.

Lifeguards quickly towed it back into the ocean, where they, too, presumed it would sink.

It drifted onto a sandbar near shore Thursday morning.

“It’s the same old whale,” Joe Cordaro, a biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service, said Thursday. “It just won’t sink.”

Cordaro said government scientists have been tracking the corpse’s odyssey as they fly over coastal waters on the lookout for additional dead whales.

The blue whale is an endangered species. Three were found dead off Southern California in September. Two were verified as having been struck by ships, and the third is strongly suspected of having been.

steve.chawkins@latimes.com


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