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Humpback whale makes an appearance in New York Harbor

April 9, 2009 |  7:58 pm

A humpback whale surfaced in the Hudson River

New Yorkers were in for a surprise this morning: a humpback whale, reportedly about 30 to 40 feet in length, surfaced near Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York Harbor.

The whale was first reported to authorities around 8 a.m. and remained in the area for several hours.  From the New York Times:

Petty Officer Annie Berlin, a spokeswoman for the Coast Guard, said: "It is fairly close to the shipping zone. We want to make sure that not only the animal is not in danger, but that the vessels traveling in and out of New York Harbor are also safe."

She said that the whale, at 11 a.m., was about one mile from the Verrazano Bridge.

Petty Officer Schulein said the whale was not too far from Brooklyn. "It's right near Bay Ridge," he added. "It's right off of Belt Parkway." By 1:15 p.m., it had moved near Coney Island, the Coast Guard reported.

The last known sighting of the whale was at 2:24 p.m. in Ambrose Channel south of the Verrazano Bridge by a Coast Guard crew and representatives from the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation. The Coast Guard suspended its security zone around the whale at 4 p.m. as it continued to move south.

Paul J. Browne, the Police Department's chief spokesman, said that two Police Department harbor launches were dispatched and gliding in the waters near the whale around noon. "The whale does not seem to be in distress," said Mr. Browne.

A boat from Long Island's Riverhead Foundation was dispatched to check on the whale, and while the group noted the appearance of growths on its skin, it was determined to be in "moderate health," Riverhead Foundation director Rob DeGiovanni told CNN.

Last night, the Coast Guard was called to Rockaway Beach when it was reported that a whale was trying to beach itself there.  When the Coast Guard arrived at Rockaway, the whale was nowhere to be found. It's unclear whether the incidents are related, but Berlin told the New York Times that she didn't see "why it wouldn't be the same whale."

--Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Matthew Pecora / Associated Press

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