Wayward whales turn back towards sea
A mother and calf pair of humpback whales who were stranded in a freshwater basin in northern California have finally turned back towards the Pacific ocean. The pair had spent a week in the water near the Port of Sacramento, after travelling 75 miles from the Pacific. While their unusual presence thrilled onlookers, the whales were in serious danger from passing ships, and both the calf and its mother had sustained some visible injuries.
Marine biologists at the California Department of Fish and Game had unsuccessfully tried to lure the whales out of the channel with whale sounds late last week, and it's believed the whales left the basin on their own after a number of tugboats disturbed the water. The whales have still have quite a journey to make before they reach the ocean (as of Monday morning they'd covered about 30% of the distance), and a flotilla of nine vessels is trailing the whales to ensure they don't turn around again.
Marine biologists involved in the rescue efforts say a mother and calf have never before been stranded so far inland. While authorities hope the whales will safely return to the Pacific, they may run out of fat reserves and end up beaching, or they may suffer consequences of their injuries. While the injuries wouldn't normally be life-threatening, the wounds aren't healing in the absense of salt water, and they run the risk of infection. The whales are difficult to track in the darkness, and authorities will try to report on their progress today, using airplanes and helicopters to spot them.