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Jasmine Childress posted the snap on Twitter, writing: "I SAW A FREAKING WHALE FROM A PLANE AND THE PHOTO IS BAD AND I DONT CARE."
She had been flying over the Santa Barbara Channel in a 'puddle jumper', which flies much lower than commercial flights.
Her incredible photo has since gone viral, racking up more than 527,000 likes and 30,000 retweets after being posted on 30 March.
In a later update, Childress - who is a PhD Candidate at the University of California Santa Barbara - explained a little more about the sighting, saying she believes the animal may have been a grey whale.
She wrote: "These reactions are a bit over-whale-ming (I had to), but I have a few notes!
"I was flying over the Santa Barbara channel. I was in a puddle jumper much lower than commercial flights (with one other person + distance + masks!). Pretty sure it's a grey whale."
These reactions are a bit over-whale-ming (I had to ), but I have a few notes!
• I was flying over the Santa Barbara channel
• I was in a puddle jumper much lower than commercial flights (with one other person+distance+masks!)
• pretty sure it's a grey whale https://t.co/zQ9teS5zG5
- Jasmine Childress (@_JChildress) March 31, 2021
Her post had thousands of comments from impressed social media users, with one saying: "That's fantastic, just so you know.
"And there is no such thing as bad whale pictures from a plane. That's like saying a blank sheet of paper is empty. Its a freakin' WHALE that you captured while shooting across the sky at sonic speeds in a tin-can with a dinky plexiglass window."
Another commented: "It's kinda scary seeing how big the whale and ocean is and from the view of a plane the whale is tiny. Nature is truly mesmerising and terrifying."
Offering their thoughts on the species, a third person said: "Someone downthread said your whale is a blue, but I'm gonna have to respectfully disagree.
"This is a grey whale, and I'm assuming your were flying somewhere off the CA coast. The greys are migrating north now and tend to hug the coastline closer than when southbound."
In September last year, a photographer called Sean Keenan managed to capture the first verified blue whale sighting off the coast of Australia.
Amazingly, he then went a spotted another just weeks later, filming the moment on a drone camera.
Keenan, 31, from Belfast, told LADbible: "I'm still coming to terms with the first sighting so to try and explain the second sighting in a month is hard to describe, I'm full of joy and in complete shock.
"To see another blue whale in a matter of weeks is just crazy, I was supposed to be home in Ireland getting married now, so it's a good thing to come from Covid.
"The second sighting wasn't too far from where I saw the first one four weeks ago, actually only 600 metres from the cliff I was sitting on, near Maroubra beach in Sydney.
"This whale seemed a bit smaller compared to the last with different markings and spent a lot more time near the surface, which was incredible to watch."
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