The humpback whale that's been taking a tour of the New York City area has been seen heading back out toward open sea.
The Coast Guard says it suspended its safety zone around the giant mammal on Thursday afternoon. The security measure had been protecting the 15-to-20-foot whale from boats - and vice versa.
The whale was discovered swimming in New York Harbor Thursday morning and the Coast Guard and marine biologists worked to safeguard the creature from the dangers of the harbor traffic.
The whale swam in a busy shipping channel near the Verrazano Bridge, in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, heading toward Coney Island. It was about 15 to 20 feet in length and was suspected to be a humpback. It may have been the same whale that was spotted near Queens on Wednesday.
NYPD marine units said there were efforts to direct the whale into open water. Police said it did not appear to be in distress.
A team from Long Island's Riverhead Foundation hoped to examine the animal and determine what, if anything, it needs.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it's not unusual for whales to be in the area at this time of year. But they're usually not this close to shore.
"Several species of large whales are found off the Mid-Atlantic and even close to shore this time of year, including humpbacks, fin whales, right whales, and minke whales,” said Teri Frady, spokeswoman for NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service. “Our current priority is to get a positive species identification, and to do an assessment of the animal's health and the local environment.”
Staten Islanders flocked to Fort Wadsworth Park at the foot of the Verrazano Bridge to catch a glimpse of the wayward whale.
"I've never ever seen a whale in real life," said Gavin Mathias, 7. "Only in books and on TV."
Judging by the video, the whale looked to be a young humpback, said Dr. Howard Rosenbaum of the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo.
"It (was) probably a recently weaned humpback and might (have been) confused with the migration pattern and got lost," Rosenbaum said.
Humpbacks do usually pass through this area in the spring, but it is unusual for one to swim upriver and into the Hudson, Rosenbaum said.
Video: Coast Guard Officials Recap Thursday's Events