The 45-foot humpback had been tagged by scientists and named Wally

Wally, a 45-foot humpback whale, washed up on Dockweiler Beach on Thursday night. Photo by Max Rothschild.

Wally, a 45-foot humpback whale, washed up on Dockweiler Beach on Thursday night. Photo by Max Rothschild.

By Gary Walker

A decomposing humpback whale carcass washed up on Dockweiler State Beach in Playa del Rey late Thursday night, arriving just ahead of a busy Fourth of July weekend at the beach.

Los Angeles County Lifeguards discovered the male humpback, estimated to be seven to 10 years old, after receiving a call about a vessel that had washed ashore between 7:30 to 8 p.m. last night, Lifeguard Capt. Kenichi Haskett said.

“He’s a big guy. He’s a mature male, 45 feet long, and we estimate he weighs about what three or four Chevy Tahoe trucks weigh,” Haskett said.

Chevy Tahoe trucks typically weigh between 5,500 and 5,800 pounds.

Haskett referred to the whale as Wally, a name the humpback received after being tagged early this year by biologists. Wally was last seen in Dana Point in 2015.

The National Marine Fisheries Service, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the nonprofit Marine Animal Rescue were examining Wally on Friday afternoon in order to determine the whale’s cause of death.

Haskett said Wally’s carcass will likely be towed out to sea “many, many miles” away from the coast to allow the carcass to decompose naturally in the ocean. That should happen around high tide tonight, around 7:30 p.m., he said.

“We don’t want anyone hitting the whale or mistaking it for a vessel,” he said.

On Friday afternoon, a crowd of more than 100 onlookers had gathered on the beach as responders used a mechanical front-end loader to build a small sand berm near the carcass.

“I just think it’s crazy that we’re watching this happen right now,” said Imose Ogbeiwi, 22.

Whale carcasses showing up on L.A. beaches is not a common occurrence, but Haskett recalled one appearing on Venice Beach in the late 1990s that “was Wally’s size or bigger.”

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Argonaut intern Max Rothschild contributed to this report.

Responders and onlookers gather around the whale. Photo by Max Rothschild.

Responders and onlookers gather around the whale. Photo by Max Rothschild.