Whale ap­pears along­side yachts in lux­ury area


A whale ap­peared in the ma­rina of one of Buenos Aires’ most ex­clu­sive neigh­bor­hoods Mon­day, pe­ri­od­i­cally sur­fac­ing along­side lux­ury yachts while hun­dreds of on­look­ers tried to cap­ture the mo­ment with smart­phones.

The whale first sur­faced in the early af­ter­noon in Puerto Madero, an up­scale area of tow­er­ing of­fice build­ings and high-end lofts. In the mid­dle of the area is a body of wa­ter the size of a few square blocks where many res­i­dents keep boats.

News of the whale quickly spread on so­cial media and was broad­cast live by lo­cal sta­tions, prompt­ing hun­dreds to line up along the port area to catch a glimpse.

“We were at home hav­ing lunch when we saw it on the news and said, ‘We have to see this for our­selves,’” said Rosana Saave­dra, a teacher who came with her hus­band and teenage daugh­ter. “We were so cu­ri­ous. What is this whale do­ing here?”

Puerto Madero was built in the late 19th cen­tury to bet­ter ac­com­mo­date an in­creas­ing num­ber of ships com­ing into Buenos Aires, one of South Amer­ica’s largest port cities. Af­ter decades of de­cay, it was trans­formed by a ma­jor ur­ban­iza­tion pro­ject in the 1990s and to­day is one of the city’s trendi­est dis­tricts.

Author­i­ties had not iden­ti­fied the type of whale, and it was un­clear how they would get it back to the ocean. A port po­lice boat was seen go­ing up and down the wa­ter­way, ap­par­ently try­ing to lure the an­i­mal to the con­nect­ing Rio de la Plata river, which feeds into the At­lantic.

Po­lice at the scene de­clined to an­swer ques­tions. Calls to the Puerto Madero po­lice head­quar­ters were not an­swered.

Within a few hours, the nor­mally se­date quar­ter with pricey cof­fee and pas­try shops had a car­ni­val feel as ven­dors sold cot­ton candy and soda and fam­i­lies with small chil­dren kept an eye out for the whale.

Each time the whale sur­faced, peo­ple in the crowd gawked and rapid-fire clicks of cam­eras pierced the air.

Many Ar­gen­tines, known for their quick wit and hu­mor, were ready with jokes.

Irene Fer­nan­dez, who owns a condo a block from the wa­ter, sad she was sur­prised by the crowd when she came out for her af­ter­noon walk. She asked a po­lice of­fi­cer what was hap­pen­ing and was told a whale had ap­peared.

“I al­ways see whales walk­ing around here,” she said, mak­ing a play on the word “bal­lena” in Span­ish, which Ar­gen­tines some­times use to re­fer to politi­cians and peo­ple who are portly.

Still, there was also worry about what might hap­pen to the crea­ture.

“It’s re­ally said,” said Daniela Ritta, who works at a bank around the cor­ner from the ma­rina and went with col­leagues to have a look. “This is not its nat­u­ral habi­tat. The poor whale is clearly lost.”

Mar­i­ano Sironi, sci­en­tific di­rec­tor of the Whale Con­ser­va­tion In­sti­tute in Ar­gentina, ini­tially said the an­i­mal ap­peared to be a minke or a hump­back whale. But later, af­ter view­ing video and talk­ing with a col­league, he said he thinks it is a hump­back.

Sironi said whales some­times get dis­ori­ented and swim up­stream in rivers. When that hap­pens, the an­i­mal of­ten needs help to get back to sea, which usu­ally in­volves us­ing boats to di­rect it back from the di­rec­tion it came.

A fresh-wa­ter en­vi­ron­ment like a ma­rina can hurt the skin of whales, pro­vides no food and also makes it harder for them to swim be­cause the wa­ter doesn’t have the buoy­ancy ef­fect of salt in the ocean, Sironi said.

While there is no time limit on how long a whale can live in fresh wa­ter, “ev­ery day it will get weaker and be in worse health,” he said.


(Above) Peo­ple watch a lost whale in Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires, Ar­gentina on Mon­day, Aug. 3.

(Right) A lost whale swims near boats in Puerto Madero, Mon­day.

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