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The captain of a Sydney ferry said he had little time to react when a humpback whale surfaced with her calf in the harbor.
A humpback whale and its calf were badly injured apparently by a ferry in Sydney Harbour on Monday.
Witnesses suffered ugly gashes and cuts after they "just popped up" under the ferry traveling from Circular Quay to Manly, according to witnesses cited by Fairfax media.
"There was nothing the ferry could do," Richard Ford from Sydney Whale Watching, whose boats were on the water monitoring the whales at the time, told the Sydney Morning Herald.
"We all knew the whales were around there and an alert had come out earlier on the radio, so we knew the whales were in the vicinity and everyone was keeping a watch out.
"[The captain] said it just popped up in front of the ferry... It popped up so close that the ferry wouldn't have had any time ... to do anything."
Humpbacks are regularly seen off Australia's coast at this time of the year, making annual winter migration from Antarctica up to the warmer waters off Queensland before returning in November.
Last week, a dead humpback whale washed up in a Sydney ocean pool.
More from GlobalPost: Australia: 33-foot whale found dead in pool at Sydney beach (VIDEO)
Aerial photos published Monday showed a female humpback in Sydney Harbour with a gaping wound near its dorsal fin and its calf with a long gash.
Agence France-Presse cited the New South Wales Department of Transport as confirming that one of its ferries, the "Collaroy," had struck an unknown object.
There were reports that the vessel had been taken out of service with a bent propeller.
Geoff Ross, National Parks and Wildlife Service coordinator of marine and fauna programs, told The Australian that a whale watching boat and a NPWS vessel were tracking the mammals.
"We have information that suggests that a ferry may have collided with something in the harbor this morning and we have an injured humpback," Ross said.
"The injuries seem to minor at this stage."
The state Department of Heritage and Environment said on its Twitter feed that the whale and her calf had since left the harbor for the open ocean.
Whale and calf have left Sydney Harbour. Still moving freely. Hopefully will survive with just a nasty scar. NPWS monitoring
#whaleon — Environment+Heritage (@OEHmedia) August 6, 2012
The department added in a second tweet: "Hopefully will survive with just a nasty scar."
Ford added: "Obviously if you get hit by a Manly ferry you are going to be in distress, but we watched afterwards and they seemed to be swimming in a normal pattern."