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THAR SHE BLOWS; GRAY WHALES SPOUT OFF AT MUGU FESTIVAL.

Byline: Kevin F. Sherry Daily News Staff Writer

Dozens of visitors stood scanning the sparkling waters of the Pacific on Sunday, all of them hoping to catch a glimpse of the guests of honor.

Sure enough, around 2 p.m., a few jets of mist broke the surface and all eyes at Point Mugu State Park turned to see. Dozens more people lined the beach, grabbed binoculars or shielded their eyes from the sun.

The gray whales had arrived.

The whales made their presence known during the state park's second annual Whale Festival, which drew hundreds to the beach to watch the ocean giants in their annual migration from Baja California to their feeding grounds in the Bering Strait.

Booths at the festival featured whale and marine artwork and information, as children played around an inflatable whale near the surf.

The daylong event also had a series of historical and musical presentations about whales and their history. Gray whales were twice almost hunted to extinction, but have been off the endangered species list since the 1970s, said Cara O'Brien, a state park interpreter.

``Every booth, all the music, all the entertainment is about protecting the marine environment,'' O'Brien said.

In preparation for the festival, volunteers raked the driftwood brought by the recent storms into piles, said volunteer Barbara Nixon.

Park docents like Nixon were on hand with telescopes to help visitors scan the horizon to look for the telltale spouting that signaled the passing of whales.

``It's better to find it with the naked eye first,'' Nixon said. ``Then you know where to point the telescope.''

March is the best month for seeing whales pass by the coast, O'Brien said. But some of the creatures are passing farther out than they normally do because February's El Nino rains muddied the waters along the coastline, Nixon said.

CAPTION(S):

3 Photos

PHOTO (1-2) (1--Color in Conejo and Simi Editions only) (2--Color in Conejo Edition only) Ranger Connie Breakfield, right, helps Brody Stevens, 3, of Malibu try a fencing mask and foil at the festival while a youngster trots by an inflatable whale, above, on the beach.

Michael Owen Baker/Daily News

(3--Color) (Ran in Conejo Edition only) People watch for whales Sunday at the 1998 Whale Festival at Point Mugu State Park
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 9, 1998
Words:381
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