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Blue whales make surprise appearance off Washington coast

Two blue whales, the largest living creature ever, swim through Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. (NOAA)

The largest animals on the planet paid a rare visit to Washington waters last month.

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The two blue whales were seen feeding about 17 miles northwest of Grays Harbor on July 24th. Cascadia Research biologist John Calambokidas said he documented them by chance while surveying humpback and gray whales.

“Immediately recognized them as blue whales that we’ve studied quite a bit in California, but only very rarely see off Washington,” said Calambokidas.

He wasn’t certain why the whales appear to have moved north this year in search of krill, their main food source. The animals are part of a population of 2,000 blue whales most commonly seen off the coast of California.

‘’I don’t know quite why we so rarely see them off Washington,” said Calambokidis. “As far as I know, this is only the third of fourth sighting in the last 30, 40 years.”

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The whales have also been seen in unusual numbers off the coast of Oregon, though Calambokidis said it’s unclear if this pattern change will last. The population of whales ranges from the Gulf of Alaska down to Central America.

“This year it seems like they’ve just shifted a little further north,” said Calambokidis. “I think it just reflects annual differences in where there’s prey.”

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