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10 of the world's most famous whales

By: Shea Gunther on June 20, 2011, 1 p.m.
humpback whale and diver, as seen from below

Photo: solarseven/Shutterstock

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'Thar she blows!'

Whales have enchanted humans ever since we first set out to sea, with early mariners often mistaking them for sea monsters. Those sailors eventually gave way to whalers, though, as growing demand for whale oil led to large-scale hunts. Some whales fought back, helping inspire the legend of Moby Dick, perhaps history's best-known whale.

As petroleum became more available in the late 1800s, whaling began a slow decline that now sees only a few countries — namely Japan, Norway and Iceland — continue the practice. Thanks to the 1986 international ban on commercial whaling, many whale populations were able to recover from decades of hunting. Today, most people enjoy whales in movies and at water parks.

Here are 10 of the most famous whales in history.