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Blue whales off Southern California coast create rare, beautiful sight

A still from aerial footage shows a blue whale feeding off the coast of Laguna Niguel on Friday, August 31, 2012.

August 31, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Sleek as torpedoes shooting through the water, blue whales made an unusual appearance off the coast of Laguna Niguel on Friday.

The largest mammals in the world could be seen near the shore as they sought out their food.

Larry Fukuhara of the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro says this pattern is repeated countless times, but typically the whales are deep in the cold water favored by the krill and plankton. But now, the colder water happens to be closer to the surface, making a perfect time to witness the whales feast.

The whales need as much as 8,000 pounds of food a day. Inside their mouths are baleen plates which catch tiny creatures and strain out the water. What is also unusual is the whales' location -- as little as 3 miles from the coast.

"They're so close," said Fukuhara. "A lot of times, what I hear on the East Coast you have to go miles and miles and miles. They're relatively close, which I think is, once again, fabulous and fascinating."

Fukuhara says the whales should be in coastal waters for about a month before moving on to migrate. If the same conditions exist through the weekend, it could be a treat for beach visitors this Labor Day.