TRENTON, N.J. – A young beluga whale (search) that apparently took a wrong turn and wound up in the Delaware River (search), 80 miles from the open sea, appeared to be making its way back downstream on Wednesday.
State officials said the 10- to 12-foot white whale was spotted near Beverly, about eight miles south of the point where it was first spotted around noon Tuesday at Trenton, where it drew hundreds of camera-toting spectators.
State police and environmental officials said they hoped the whale would find its own way back south to open water, and were keeping boaters away.
"Our enemy here is too much attention," said state police Trooper Stephen Jones. "We want the whale to get his bearings and continue south without interference from too many curious onlookers."
The whale was spotted Tuesday downstream from the city's "Trenton Makes The World Takes" bridge, which spans the river at the upper end of its tidal pool. Upstream from that point, the river is too shallow for an animal that big.
It spent much of Tuesday swimming in a loop between the bridge and a marina about a mile downstream.
"Four news helicopters are hovering overhead. The train is stopping on the train trestle, people are lining up along the river. It's like the city has gone mad," said Paul Loriquet, a spokesman for the state Attorney General's Office who watched the scene from his office.
Bob Schoelkopf, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center (search) in Brigantine, said the whale might be a juvenile that couldn't fend for itself in the open ocean or an adult that chased a school of herring up the river past Philadelphia. Typically, beluga whales travel in large groups but spread out when feeding.
A right whale — named Waldo the Wrong-Way Right Whale by Philadelphians — straggled into the Delaware River in 1995. The whale beached itself at an oil terminal in Pennsauken, N.J., but disappeared after about 10 days. It was found two years later swimming near Canada.