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A man has missed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a breaching humpback whale up-close because he was too busy on his mobile phone.

Whilst sailing off the coast of California, the oblivious man came within feet of the incredible spectacle but somehow managed to not notice.

However, photographer Eric Smith, from Los Angeles, managed to capture the rare moment that the animal surfaced. Noticing that the unidentified man remained unaware of the sight before him, Smith photographed the man staring at his phone as the whale swam along beside his boat.

Smith uploaded the photograph to social network Instagram, commenting “a sign of the times” and “Hey dude! Stop texting. There’s an enormous humpback whale two feet from your boat!” Smith says he took five photos of the man who continued to stare at his screen throughout the entire encounter.

Speaking to CBS News, Eric Smith said, “a small private sailboat manoeuvred really close to the whales, and this guy on it was literally sitting in that position and never moved.

“He could have been texting his mum in the hospital for all I know, but I thought it sucked that he missed such a wonderful moment happening just two feet in front of him.

“We’re all guilty being buried in our phones, even me. You think life is better on your phone, but we’re missing what’s happening around us.”

View this post on Instagram

A sign of the times.

A post shared by Eric J. Smith (@esmith_images) on

The whale can grow to be between 39 and 52 feet and weigh 36,000 kilograms, and whale watching is worth around $2.1 billion worldwide.

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