Photo: Flip Nicklin/Minden Pictures
"Pictured: The largest animal ever to have lived - tragically run down by a passing ship Mail Online"
Researchers believe the whale may have been hit by a cargo ship in the busy shipping lanes coming out of the city of Los Angeles. Staff at the university have not yet been reached for comment. The picture first appeared on National Geographic's website.Whale deaths always upset me. Whether by nature or man, there just aren't enough of them left. Poor whale. Poor us.
Water is churned up around the body of the whale as the research vessel fights to get closer to it, while seagulls perch on its upturned belly.
The Pacific Storm is 84 feet, or just over 25 metres long - meaning this whale must be roughly 22 metres long.
The image is so astonishing it almost looks unreal. The Oregon State University's Marine Mammal Institute is well-known for its research on blue whales, even participating in a documentary with National Geographic on the subject.
Blue whales are the largest animal ever to have lived - even larger than the dinosaurs. They are a sub-species of baleen whale, feeding mainly on krill, that can grow to up to 30 metres long, and weigh 100-150tonnes. Their mouths could hold up to 100 people, and their hearts are the size of a small car.
They are long-lived, also, with an average lifespan of 110 years. The blue whale is also one of the largest animals in the sea, capable of making noises as loud as a jet engine - though at frequencies too low for a human being to hear.
The majestic creatures live in all oceans of the world, though they are predominantly found in the North Atlantic, the North Pacific, and just above Antarctica. By the 1960s they were classified as being on the brink of extinction, and they are still on the endangered list - making the tragic loss of this one all the more poignant.