Thousands flock to see lost whales in Sacramento port

first_imgWEST SACRAMENTO – Thousands of spectators took advantage of the first weekend since two whales took a wrong turn and swam 90 miles inland to California’s capital to catch a glimpse of the deep-sea creatures. The wayward pair – dubbed Delta and Dawn by the state’s lieutenant governor – did not disappoint. Crowds shrieked every time the mother and calf surfaced for air. “I see it, I see it, I see it,” screamed 4-year-old Eliyas Charles, wide-eyed and pointing at the water from atop his grandfather’s shoulders. “That black spot was the whale. I can see it.” The dusty riverbank along the Port of Sacramento took on the air of a carnival Saturday as cops directed traffic into makeshift parking lots, vendors sold ice cream and lines formed outside Port-A-Potties. The whales seemed content to command the crowd’s attention. For the fifth day since they were first spotted in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the two mostly swam looping half-mile laps around the port, where the sprawling inland waterway essentially comes to an end. Scientists have been hoping the whales – which both appear to have been wounded by a ship’s propeller – would begin swimming westward toward the Pacific Ocean on their own. But Carrie Wilson, a biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game, said experts are content with the animals remaining in the isolated port area for the weekend since heavy recreational boat traffic in the delta could complicate rescue efforts. The whales swam in peace with the help of a Coast Guard escort on Saturday. The Coast Guard enforced a 500-yard safety zone around the whales and authorities closed the north port channel and a nearby public boat ramp for the weekend. A marine mammal rescue crew plans to resume efforts Monday to lure the pair by playing recorded sounds of other humpbacks feeding. A similar strategy worked in 1985 with a humpback nicknamed Humphrey, which swam in the delta for nearly a month before returning to sea. If scientists have not made progress by Tuesday, they plan to begin herding the animals down river with a gauntlet of 50 boats that would provide a less-pleasing underwater soundtrack of banging on pipes. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

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