May 30, 2007 in Nation/World

Errant whales well on way back to ocean

Associated Press The Spokesman-Review

VALLEJO, Calif. – Two lost whales closed in on their ocean home Tuesday evening, passing under a busy bridge and entering San Francisco Bay after being lost in inland waterways.

The mother humpback and her calf, who have sojourned for more than two weeks in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, passed under the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge on Tuesday afternoon, the next-to-last bridge along the pair’s route.

“They’re heading very much in the right direction,” said Rod McInnis, a spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

If the humpbacks can navigate south around a peninsula and an island, few obstacles would remain on their route past Alcatraz to the Golden Gate, the strait that connects San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean.

Observers saw the whales leap above the water Tuesday in a behavior known as breaching, which some biologists view as a form of communication and others as play.

Lesions that had formed on the humpbacks’ skin over the weekend appeared to be sloughing off, apparently due to the saltier water the pair have been swimming in since leaving Rio Vista, biologists said.

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