Friday afternoon was “shore”-ly an exciting day, as a gray whale calf was spotted unusually close to various parts of the harbor area in Santa Barbara around noon and throughout the day.
The baby whale was seen both along Stearns Wharf and inside the harbor.
It wasn’t spotted on Saturday according to Harbor Patrol, so it is assumed that the baby whale headed back toward the open ocean, perhaps back to its mother.
“It’s unusual, but it’s not unheard of this time of year to see that, and they usually end up finding their way out,” Harbor Patrol Officer Nathan Alldredge told the News-Press on Saturday.
He said that a whale coming that close to land is a rare occurrence, and Harbor Patrol only sees one that close maybe once or twice every few years.
“We see whales all the time outside the harbor, but for them to come in close, they could be following food trying to eat or kind of confused,” Officer Alldredge said.
Harbor Patrol works with the Channel Islands Marine and Wildlife Institute when things like this occur, so CIMWI staff members came Friday afternoon to monitor the whale for its safety.
Harbor Patrol officers also monitored the situation to ensure boaters and other people in the area didn’t bother the whale or interfere with its normal feeding and behavioral patterns.
Other than that, officials simply let the visitor roam around, to the delight of viewers.
The good news is the young mammal didn’t show any signs of illness or distress — it’s possible that he or she was just popping in to say hello to the humans of Santa Barbara, many of whom lined up along Stearns Wharf Friday afternoon to catch a glimpse.
While no one is sure if the curious whale will make another appearance, it sure was a “whale”-come surprise.