The whale-watching season in Baja California is in full swing, so a sighting, even catching a whale on camera, is not unexpected. When you catch an incredibly rare white whale on film, however, it is definitely a cause for excitement.
Manuel González, a scuba diving instructor who runs whale watching tours, was out in his boat with friends in Magdalena Bay, in the southern part of Mexico's Baja California peninsula, when he spotted the white gray whale.
“At first we thought it could be a very whitish gray whale but in this case it was a 100 percent albinism,” Mr Gonzalez told the Daily Mail.
“When I saw this whale I couldn't believe that my dream was coming true. I've seen albino animals only in pictures, documentaries and in science articles, but I always said in my mind ‘I wish I could see that for real someday.’"
Albinism – a genetic condition where the body fails to produce melanin, the dark pigment that occurs in hair, skin, and fur – is pretty rare in animals, although it has been recorded in a huge variety of them, from orangutans and penguins to zebras and giraffes.
However, this particular white whale may have been spotted before. Sightings of an albino gray whale off the coast of Mexico were first recorded in 2008, when it was just a calf. It was affectionately nick-named Galón de Leche, gallon of milk.
In February 2017, a typically colored gray whale was also spotted with a pure white calf, which was nicknamed Costalito de Sal, little sack of salt.
Whether this latest sighting is Galón de Leche has not been confirmed, but it has been spotted more than once.
What we do know for sure is that it’s not currently the only white whale in the world. The waters of Botany Bay, Sydney, Australia are host to their own famous male white humpback whale, Migaloo, which was thought to be the only white humpback whale in the world. That is until 2011, when a baby albino humpback was spotted in the same waters. It has been named MJ (Migaloo Junior), though it hasn’t been confirmed if Migaloo is indeed the father. White orcas have also been filmed off the coast of Russia.
Sadly, sightings of a real-life Moby-Dick, the violent white sperm whale pursued by the unhinged, revenge-bent Captain Ahab in Herman Melville's novel of the same name, are few and far between. Melville's whale was partially inspired by Mocha Dick, a sperm whale recorded near the Mocha Islands, Chile, in the early 19th century, who survived over 100 skirmishes with whalers before eventually being killed in 1839.
White whales seem to survive in the wild, so hopefully, this one will escape unscathed.