Humpback whale visits Boston Harbor for Memorial Day

A humpback whale was spotted in the waters of Boston Harbor on Memorial Day. This rare appearance in these waters delighted onlookers, but it may not hold good news for the whale. The humpback was first spotted by a fishing boat around eight in the morning on May 27, about half a mile offshore from Logan Airport, near Spectacle and Deer Islands.

The whale is likely a juvenile, and might possibly be injured. The animal is thinner than normal, and it appears to have an injured tail. The well-being of humpbacks can be compromised if a humpback's tail, also called a fluke, is injured, as they depend on the large limb to help them swim through the water.

Because of the holiday, the harbor was filled with recreational water vehicles which could have posed a threat to the creature. An exclusion zone was set up around the animal by 10 a.m., preventing boats from approaching the humpback. Massachusetts Environmental Police and the Coast Guard enforced the buffer zones, designed to keep the animal safe from harm.

"It's always a very unusual event" to have a whale come into the harbor, "but it's not uncommon," Tony LaCasse, spokesman for the New England Aquarium, said.

Humpback whales are the largest animals in the world, growing up to 63 feet long. The whale spotted in Boston Harbor, however, is estimated to be between 20 and 30 feet in length, normal length for a youngster of its species.

Humpback whales are best-known for their complex singing and long migrations. Although it is common to see such whales in the waters of Cape Cod Bay at this time of year, the animals are usually found in much deeper waters, further from shore than the Memorial Day appearance of this young creature.

Another humpback whale was seen in Boston Harbor in April of 2005. That young whale spent three days in the waters before heading back out to sea.

"Any whale this close to land is pretty unusual. The middle of an urban harbor is not a great place for any large whale to be," Laura Howes, director of marine education and conservation at Boston Harbor Cruises, said.

This latest humpback to visit the harbor left the waters early Monday afternoon, heading back out to the open ocean. The whale was escorted on its journey by state Environmental Police. 

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