Young humpback whale stuck in Ventura Harbor Marina finds way back to ocean

VENTURA, Calif. (KABC) -- A rescue operation for a young whale stuck in the Ventura Harbor Marina was ended Sunday morning after the humpback safely found its way back to the ocean.

According to the Ventura Harbor Patrol, the wayward humpback whale found its way out into the ocean overnight after it got trapped in the finger of the M dock at Ventura Isle Marina and Ventura West Marina on Saturday.

At times, the 35-foot long whale appeared agitated as swirls of sand and dirt muddied the waters at the end of the dock. The whale hit the dock a few times and crashed into the back of a boat, nearly hitting a propeller.

The mammal breached the water several times and swam around the docks as large crowds of people gathered in the parking lot area above.

Wildlife experts spent four hours trying to encourage it out. They used a hydrophone that plays underwater whale sounds and blocked it to try to guide it out of the harbor.

A marine life expert said judging by its size, the whale was likely a juvenile.

"It was heartbreaking. I mean, to see an animal like that - in distress - and not being able to really do anything meaningful. All the stuff that we were trying was exactly that, just trying the best that we could to respect the animal and not try to further agitate it," said John Higgins, a harbor master for the Ventura Port District.

The search was suspended in the late evening, but when rescue crews returned to resume operations Sunday morning and found no signs of the whale, Ventura Harbor Patrol officials later confirmed it made its way out.

The device used to play whale sounds was left near the harbor entrance overnight, hoping that it might help lure the whale out, and it's believed that may have assisted in the whale's successful departure.
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