White Humpback Whale Makes An Appearance In Australia

Moby Dick? No, it's Migaloo. via Manj Gallella/YouTube

A world-famous white whale (no, not Moby Dick) has been spotted once again off the coast of Australia.

Migaloo, an albino male humpback whale, was recently seen by an Ocean Free and Ocean Freedom tour group when they were returning from Upolu Reef. 

"The white glow coming towards you, it's indescribable. There's nothing like that," Paul Faherty, the skipper of the boat, told 7 News.

Migaloo was first photographed near Byron Bay in New South Wales in June 1991. He was first seen through a telescope from around 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) away. However, because he was so distant and blurry, they couldn’t actually confirm he was all white until a later sighting.

On this first sighting of Migaloo, researchers believe he was around eight to 10 years old, meaning he is now at least 26 years old. For an animal in the wild with albinism, that’s pretty impressive. Their lack of pigment brings all kinds of health concerns and disadvantages, such as poor eyesight and a lack of camouflage. That doesn’t seem to have stopped Migaloo, however.

Scientists were initially cautious to label Migaloo as an albino because his eyes are brown, rather than the typical pink. This suggests he could, in fact, have leucism. However, according to the Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF), a study of his DNA by scientists at the Australian Marine Mammal Centre found that he was indeed an albino. It also confirmed that he was a male.

Since his first sighting, there have been at least 50 reports of the whale, with some merely anecdotal, although a large portion of the sightings have been officially confirmed. There was even one just a few weeks ago in July. 

Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) can grow up to 16 meters (52 feet) in length. Despite their monstrous size, the diet of these knobbly-headed whales consists mostly of krill and small fish.

The PWF says that Migaloo is not the only all-white humpback surfing the seven seas. A newborn all white male calf was spotted a few years ago in Queensland, Australia. This calf’s “official” name is Chalkie, although he tends to go by the nickname Migaloo Junior.

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