Gray whale visits Dana Point Harbor

DANA POINT, Calif. For nearly a day, the 35-foot whale has been swimming in the harbor, prompting speculation it could be sick. The gray whale has been hanging around, swimming in the harbor close enough for people to see it.

The whale is estimated to be 30 to 35 feet long and believed to be an adult. It wasn't known if the whale was male or female. It is believed to be an older whale based on the number of barnacles of the whale's body.

The whale first appeared Monday morning, hanging around for about an hour, left, then returned in the afternoon, then departed again.

The gray whale returned Tuesday at approximately 8 a.m. People began to gather, mesmerized by the sight of the whale.

"It's very exciting, very exciting," said Dana Point resident Anita Thibault. "My husband was down here yesterday afternoon and saw it, and I usually take my walks down here, and I thought, 'Well, I'll look for it this morning to see if it's still here,' and found it."

"My little boy was asking about the whale-watching boats, and I said, 'Oh, some day we'll see a whale, some day,'" said Dana Point resident Amy Busch. "And then we walked into the Jolly Roger and I said, 'Holy cow! There's a whale in the harbor!'"

"We do get whales that come into Dana Point Harbor but usually they come in and they leave," said Donna Kalez, Dana Point Sportfishing. "This whale seems to, I'm not really sure why it keeps coming back to the harbor. I did hear from a couple people that thought they saw like a large growth or a tumor. Some people say it's very old, it could be in its last stages. But it's still swimming around and it doesn't seem to be in distress."

Marine biologists were closely watching the whale. One expert said the whale may just be in a weakened state, possibly sick, although it's really hard to tell. Or it may be coming into the harbor just to rest where the water is a little calmer.

"He's looking for a calm place where he or she to rest and relax," said Rick Baker, vice president of the Ocean Institute.

Another expert said the whale could be very old and looking for a place to die.

Whatever the reason, people are feeling fortunate to catch a glimpse of the whale.

One official said that the /*National Marine Fisheries Service*/ plans to get help from experts from Sea World to try to attempt a rescue, perhaps taking what appears to be a rope from the whale's tail. It's not clear whether the rope is making that whale sick or weak.

Experts are expected to arrive Wednesday to attempt a rescue if the whale is still in the harbor.

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