The figure on the Newport Beach horizon, just off the pier, was so large that Marine Safety Capt. Skeeter Leeper at first thought it was a boat.
But the figure was no vessel — it was a 55-foot dead humpback whale inching its way toward shore.
Newport Beach lifeguards on a rescue boat worked Thursday to tow the dead humpback back out to sea before it made land — a problem that could attract some unwanted visitors.
“We don’t want it to attract any big fish, so we will tow it as far as possible away from the swimmers,” Leeper said.
After lifeguards spotted the whale about 3 p.m., they tied rope around the whale’s tail to drag it back out to sea. It was not an easy task given the whale’s hundreds of tons and the added weight from bloating, Leeper estimated.
Photographer Mark Girardeau, who specializes in whale images, jumped aboard a Newport Coastal Adventure boat to document the creature and try to identify the species, which he determined to be a humpback whale. He said it was a full-grown adult, identifiable by its big pectoral fin.
“You can see the whale from the beach, it’s huge,” he said. “It’s just really sad to see a dead whale. I just hope it’s from natural causes. I just hope this doesn’t happen more and this isn’t something we’ll be seeing more of.”
Leeper said lifeguards on the rescue boat expected to work until sundown to tow it as far off shore as possible, but wind predictions for the next couple days could cause problems,…
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