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Two California gray whales, trying to follow a Soviet icebreaker's channel to open seas, were caught Thursday in the icy rubble left by the ship in their rapidly refreezing path, the Soviets said.

"Quite simply, they did not get free," said Ken Freeze, a Coast Guard spokesman at Pacific Command headquarters in Alameda, Calif., who received a message from the Soviet icebreaker ship and its companion ship.The two Soviet ships planned to turn around and reclear the path for the whales at sunrise, which was expected about 11 a.m. Alaska Daylight Time (1 p.m. MDT). Meanwhile, the whales were left bobbing in a small open area.

The whales were trapped by ice for almost three weeks after getting a late start on their migration south and had been following a route of hand-cut holes until the Soviet icebreakers came to the rescue Wednesday.

"The whales made a dash for an open area but it was a small one," Freeze said, paraphrasing the message from the Soviets. "What was keeping them from open water was all the icy rubble. They (the Soviets) are informing us that there is too much rubble for them to pass through so the icebreaker will cut a new path."

The whales were further endangered because the chunks were freezing together quickly and blocking their channel to the open sea. The temperature