Sunday, May 20, 2007

Wayward whales in Sacramento on the move

Wayward whales in Sacramento on the move

Sunday, May 20, 2007

(05-20) 17:34 PDT Sacramento, Calif. (AP) --

Two whales that took a wrong turn and swam 90 miles inland to California's capital were heading back toward the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The humpback mother and her calf — nicknamed Delta and Dawn by the state's lieutenant governor — started moving southwest on the Sacramento River at around 3:30 p.m. and were about five miles outside the Port of Sacramento late Sunday afternoon, Coast Guard Petty Officer Brian Leshak said.

The wayward pair were being followed by nine vessels carrying Coast Guard officers and wildlife officials to make sure they did not reverse course.

"Nothing triggered it. They just started moving on their own," Leshak said.

Leshak said that if the whales maintain their current speed and direction, the pair would be in the Benicia area, just east of San Francisco Bay, sometime after midnight.

"We have no estimate past that, but right now they are in the deep channel area moving along pretty good," Leshak said.

The whales still have a long way to go and obstacles to overcome if they maintain their course. Officials said there are sloughs leading to muddy deltas that could trap the injured whales, which appear to have been wounded by a ship's propeller.

The whales will also have to make their way through the pylons of four bridges to reach the San Francisco Bay, and will have to swim under the Golden Gate Bridge to return to the ocean.

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