Newport Beach lifeguards Monday set out for the second straight day to protect the city’s beaches from an unwelcome visitor – the bloated, decaying 45-foot-long carcass of a humpback whale named Wally.
As of 10 a.m., the dead animal was about five miles off the coast and getting closer, according to lifeguard Battalion Chief Mike Halphide.
“We can see it out on the horizon,” he said.
The whale’s body is no stranger to the shoreline.
On June 30 it washed ashore at Dockweiler State Beach in Los Angeles County.
The next day, officials with the National Marine Fisheries Service identified the 22-ton carcass as Wally, whom biologists had tagged in August.
Later that day, crews got the carcass back into the ocean with the help of the high tide, and two lifeguard boats towed it out to sea in hopes that it would decompose naturally.
Instead, Wally’s body is threatening to return to the coast.
“The ocean’s had its own plan,” Halphide said.
He said Newport Beach lifeguards saw the carcass Sunday morning. Apparently winds had pushed the blubbery mass to within a mile of the Newport coast.
Lifeguards could see Wally from their headquarters at the Newport Pier without using binoculars, according to Halphide. “It’s that large,” he said.
A crew on a rescue boat went out and used a rope already tied around the whale’s tail to tow the carcass due south. Lifeguard boats aren’t designed to transport something so massive, so it was slow going, taking the entire day, according to Halphide.
“Just the size and the bloat and the smell was something,” he said.
At around 5 p.m. Sunday, the crew let Wally’s body go about 14 miles from the shore, but the winds have pushed it back toward land.
If conditions stay the same, Halphide said, the carcass likely will wash ashore near the Newport Pier if lifeguards don’t intervene again.
So on Monday morning, lifeguards fueled up their boat to prepare for another long day of hauling Wally.
Jeremiah Dobruck, firstname.lastname@example.org