A helicopter search by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources today failed to spot a whale that had gotten three-quarters of the way up Chesapeake Bay.
The whale first was spotted at about 11:30 a.m. yesterday by officers of the DNR and Coast Guard.
It was last seen at about 6 p.m. off Rock Hall on the Eastern Shore, said Barbara MacLoud, a DNR spokesman.
The search took place from about 8 to 10 a.m. today and covered the bay from Rock Hall south to Kent Island, MacLoud said.
Cheryl Messinger, a marine mammal expert at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, said it is unclear whether the 40- to 44-foot whale is in distress or has merely strayed from its oceanic habitat.
"This is not necessarily a distress situation," said Messinger, who heads the aquarium's efforts to deal with marine mammal strandings. "There are probably any number of reasons the animal might be there, but we don't know why yet. When we know what species it is, we'll have more information."
Federal law protects whales, so boats should stay at least 100 yards away from the animals and not do anything to startle them, Messinger added.
Any boaters who see the whale should contact the DNR, MacLoud said.