Onlookers along the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea were treated to the surprise of a lifetime: one of the largest creatures to have ever existed on Earth.
It was the first blue whale ever to be spotted in the Red Sea, leaving open a number of questions as to how and why this majestic marine mammal would have swam so far off course, reports Egypt Today.
Although blue whales can be found in oceans around the world, they usually steer clear of shallower waters or seas that are largely enclosed by land. Most suspicious, however, is that blue whales usually head for colder waters this time of year. The Red Sea isn't just evidence that this whale took a wrong turn; it's swimming in completely uncharted whale waters.
Because blue whales often travel solo, this individual isn't likely to have a companion. It is, quite literally, a lonely whale in a great big sea. There are also worries that it might not be able to find enough food in the Red Sea. The krill that these beasts rely on for sustenance are not plentiful in warm waters.
So far, scientists are baffled as to what has caused this animal to swim this particular route. Perhaps it's just lost, or maybe it's sick. It's possible that it has found itself trapped within the Red Sea's narrow borders. Researchers will attempt to keep a close eye on this whale, although currently there are no plans in place to assist it.
Due to their sheer size, a blue whale can make for an intimidating encounter, especially in waters where the sight is unexpected. But luckily these baleen mammals are harmless to human divers and beachgoers. The same can't be said about humans for the whales, however. Populations of blue whales across the globe remain in a fragile state due to sound pollution, ship strikes, fishing nets and global warming.
Around 10-25,000 blue whales are thought to swim the world's oceans today, but their slow breeding rates could leave the species susceptible to population crashes.