It looked like a dolphin, but it was a 1,000-pound beaked whale that beached itself Friday in Malibu, setting off an extensive rescue operation that ended with her transport to a center with a portable pool for marine mammals.
Lifeguards at Point Dume County Beach spotted the whale attempting to beach herself early Friday afternoon, said lifeguard Capt. Steve Moseley. Unable to steer the whale back toward the sea, the lifeguards and beachgoers kept pouring water on the motionless whale after it beached.
She was loaded on a truck and wrapped in wet fabric, and water was poured on her face throughout the trip to the Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro.
The female beaked whale was the first of the species to be brought to the center in its seven years of operation, said its director, Jackie Ott.
"We gave her electrolyte solution, which is like Gatorade, medication for shock, and took some blood that is on its way to a vet for testing to see what's wrong with her," Ott said.
The listless whale was transferred to the Friends of the Sea Lion in Laguna Beach, which has a portable pool large enough for her.
"She's moving a little bit on her own, but definitely needs help," said Darah Himmelhock, director of operations at Friends of the Sea Lion. "Her breathing rate is a little high, which is an indication of stress."
Michelle Hunter, assistant director of Friends of the Sea Lion, says caretakers hope the whale can recover and be released. She said the organization cared for two female dolphins that had beached themselves earlier this year, but both animals died.
The center said the survival rate for beached dolphins is only about 1 in 100, while it has no figures on beaked whale survivability because it has never cared for one before.
Hunter said the caretakers think it would be unlucky to name the whale and won't do so unless she has to stay at the facility for a long time.