An Anderson County hog farmer on vacation reported seeing three whales in Charleston Harbor on Monday morning.
"They raised up out of the water like whales do," James Todd said. "They were young and they were black."
He was boating on the river with his four children when he saw two whales surface 30 yards off the bow of his 23-foot motor boat, Good To Go. The third whale was about 200 yards away, he said.
Todd, 45, who lives in Iva and also raises horses, said he was too startled to think to snap a photo with a cell phone. His boat wasn't much bigger than the whales. "I was actually afraid of them. I was more worried about getting out of their way," Todd said.
He reported the whale sighting to the U.S. Coast Guard at 8:55 a.m., which issued a notice to mariners. The whales were up to 18 feet long, he said. Todd said he could not identify the species of whale. He was absolutely sure, though, that the marine mammals he saw were whales. "It was beautiful. It's a gift from God. We'd been seeing dolphin, but the whales were really cool," Todd said.
Todd reported seeing the whales in the harbor in a location that is between Crab Bank and Shutes Folly, said Wayne McFee of the National Ocean Service's marine mammal stranding program. McFee said he spoke with Todd about the whale sighting, which McFee described as "very unusual."
No one else reported a whale sighting, he said. "They could have easily just turned around and headed back out," McFee said.
Based on the description Todd gave him, McFee said the marine mammals could have been pygmy killer whales or pilot whales. "I'm hoping it's not pilot whales because that usually means they are going to strand somewhere," McFee said. The same could be said of pygmy sperm whales. "Usually, if these guys are inshore, there is something wrong with them as well," he said.
Todd said he decided to take some vacation time after his mother died recently. The family also saw the Blue Angels perform. "That was great," he said.