“The blue whale is the biggest whale, right?” That’s a question I hear often. Well yes! The blue whale, which can reach up to 30 m and weigh up to 120 tonnes, is the largest of whales. But that’s not all: it’s also the largest animal ever to have existed on planet Earth. You were impressed by the Brontosaurus in Jurassic Park? The largest individuals measured just 22 m, with an estimated weight of 15 tonnes. Even in the dinosaur age, there never existed an animal as massive as the blue whale.
This week I had the priceless opportunity to observe three blue whales, each one bluer and more beautiful than the next! How can I explain how these giants make me feel? It’s an experience that one must live to understand. That first spout, a thunderous exhalation, immediately astonishes and grabs one’s attention. Then we see this broad grayish-blue back glide by, seemingly endless until a small dorsal fin appears, sometimes followed by a robust peduncle and gigantic tail.
I should clarify that the photos that I’m sharing with you today represent rare encounters: in order to minimize disturbance to blue whales, cruise ships must stay at least 400 m away from them. Nevertheless, sometimes the animals surface closer to the boat and I have the chance to photograph them more closely.
Humans have inhabited the Earth for a little under two million years. From an evolutionary perspective, that’s just the blink of an eye. How wonderful it is, then, that we have the chance to share our planet with blue whales, to see them in flesh and blood, not just as some fossil in a museum.
Jaclyn Aubin joined the GREMM team this year as a volunteer research assistant. She holds a bachelor’s degree in marine biology. As part of the photo-census program of large rorquals in the Marine Park, she collects photos and data on board tour boats. She also shares this information with the editorial team of Whales Online.