Blue Whale Sighting Thrills Researchers
The blue whale -- the largest animal known to live on Earth -- has been on the endangered species list for almost 40 years. But a recent sighting off the coast of Alaska has given researchers some cause for optimism.
Jay Barlow, chief scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's vessel McArthur II, was conducting a survey of the more common humpback whale about 100 miles off Prince William Sound when he and his crew saw an enormous gusher from just above the water's surface.
It turned out to be the first documented sighting of a blue whale in the region in 30 years, Barlow says. Researchers saw three whales during a two-day period in mid-July. They managed to take samples of skin and blubber for genetic testing and pollutant studies.
A NOAA article on the sighting says that blue whales visit the North Pacific in summer to feed before returning to warmer southern waters for the winter. It's estimated that 12,000 blue whales remain worldwide, with perhaps 2,000 feeding in U.S. waters.
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