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We live in an exciting epoch. On the geological timescale, we humans have only been around for less than a second. Yet, we’re currently sharing the planet with the largest animal that has ever existed: the blue whale.

Yes, you heard that right. The blue whale is the longest and heaviest animal that Earth has ever seen. At 98 feet (30 meters) in length and 200 short tons (180 tons), blue whales are truly massive. Not even the giant prehistoric reptiles of the Mesozoic can rival its size.

On land, these beautiful marine mammals’ size would be their downfall. In an instant, they would be crushed by their own weight. Yet, in the ocean, they are graceful, and they glide through the turquoise waters like sentient starships.

You can see for yourself in amazing footage captured in the video below.

With all that in mind, can you believe that we almost exterminated them? Prior to whaling, 275,000 blue whales roamed the world’s oceans. Today, roughly 5,000-12,000 blue whales are left. A tragic decline.

We often take animals native to our epoch for granted, but as humans, we are truly lucky to exist in the age of the blue whale. Imagine if we’d allowed whaling to continue and allowed the largest animal in Earth’s history to disappear from the planet forever…

See what it looks like to watch one of these massive cetaceans come up for some air…