WATCH: Whale breaching spotted along Ocean City shore

Beachgoers were in for quite the treat in Ocean City, Maryland, when a whale spent hours breaching right along the shore last week.

It was a rare sighting, said Dr. Helen Bailey with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

This whale, she believes, is likely either a North Atlantic right whale, a species that is critically endangered with only about 400 remaining, or a humpback whale, which is well-known for its breaching.

“These are large, what we call baleen whales, so they don’t have teeth,” Bailey said.

She and her team have been using underwater microphones to listen for whales and dolphins since 2014 along the Maryland coast. During that time, they’ve learned that whales are frequent visitors to the coast between November and May, and occasionally during the summer, so this is a rare occurrence.

“It was really exciting to see this video,” she added.

Breaching has a unique purpose, Bailey said. As the whales land, the tremendous splash travels underwater, serving as a way of communication that also tells others how big they are. It might also be a way to get rid of parasites and other creatures that have hitched a ride.

These whales are normally further north this time of year, where they focus on feeding. “Most likely this whale was feeding while it was off Ocean City,” Bailey said.

No matter the reason, she added that there’s nothing concerning; it’s just a cool opportunity to witness nature at work. If you’re lucky enough to witness such a wonder, Bailey said to stay back at least 500 yards for the safety of yourself and the animal.

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