This week’s image is from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. — it’s a life-size model of a right whale:
Right whales are actually any of four species of baleen whales, which received their nick-name from whalers centuries ago. The idea was that these were the “right” whales to hunt since they tend to swim near shore, swim fairly slowly, and tend to float when killed (by weight, roughly forty percent of their body consists of blubber). In the early centuries of shore-based whaling, this meant they were nearly the only catchable large whales. Unfortunately, it also led to them being hunted to the brink of extinction by the middle of the 20th century.
Despite their slow swimming speed, right whales can be acrobatic and frequently jump clear of the water (a.k.a., breaching). Normally, this is entertaining for whale watchers — although one couple recently got an overly-close view of this behavior after they allegedly got too close to a right whale, provoking it.