A 20-foot juvenile gray whale dazzled boaters as it made a guest appearance in Newport Harbor on Thursday.
Newport Coastal Adventure captain Taylor Thorne was among the first to see the whale just before noon as it cruised up the main harbor channel toward Lido Isle.
“I definitely haven’t seen one back this far in the harbor,” he said. “They’re typically not a very exciting animal to watch, and this one was no exception, aside from where it was located. It was cool to see it so close in such calm waters.”
Gray whales, which have the longest migration of any mammal, usually spend the summer feeding on plankton in chilly Alaskan waters. In the fall, they migrate to the warmer waters off Baja California.
It’s not clear why this youngster made a pit stop in Newport Beach when most of its fellow whales have already made their way through the area.
Thorne suspects it’s the same whale that was seen inside Dana Point Harbor on Tuesday and that it’s trying to make its way up the coast.
“It’s probably confused,” he said.
On Thursday afternoon, the whale was spotted in Newport Harbor near Mariners’ Mile, according to Brian Stanley, a dispatcher with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Harbor Patrol.
Stanley said the Harbor Patrol doesn’t plan to try to coax the whale back into the ocean.
“We’re leaving it alone right now,” he said. “Hopefully it finds its own way out.”