On Thursday morning, 25-year-old Kane Curran spotted a creature he may never see again.
A pod of about 40 or 50 false killers whales — that's actually their name — swam roughly a mile and half from the Newport Harbor entrance, Curran's third sighting of them in the past 24 hours.
"Being out here for so long and seeing a species I've never seen before, it's quite an experience," said Curran, who grew up in the area. "It could very well be something I don't see ever again."
False killer whales are the third largest of the dolphin family.
A captain for Newport Beach-based Davey's Locker Sportsfishing & Whale Watching, Curran first heard about the whale sightings when he took out an 11 a.m. tour on Wednesday.
Other enthusiastic boaters reported over the radio that the whales, which normally dwell in tropical waters, swam near the Dana Point shoreline — a bit too far for Curran to travel before picking up his next trip at 1 p.m.
Steering the Ocean Explorer out of the Newport Beach harbor with his next group, Curran knew he couldn't miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"We headed down the coastline as fast as we could," he said.
Curran found the pod near Laguna Beach and followed them to Crystal Cove. The dark whales, which can grow to be 15 or 20 feet long, swam around and under the boat, unafraid of anything, Curran said.
On a third trip, which departed at 3:30 p.m., he tracked them down yet again near the Newport Beach Pier.
He has not seen them since Thursday morning, when they appeared to be heading south.
"You never know," he said, excitement in his voice. "They could turn around again."
Curran does not believe the whales have been spotted in the area since 2001. Before that, they had not been seen since the 1970s, he said.