A majestic all-white 55 ton humpback whale was sighted off the coast of Sydney, Australia recently. Affectionately named Migaloo, the term that the Queensland Aboriginal community uses to describe a ‘white fella,’ the striking whale was traveling with several other whales, as reported by Australia’s 7 News. A whale watcher told the station, “There were three other whales following it and there were two other whales over there, so we were surrounded by whales.”
Another member of the whale watching group, Adam Cardwell, said, "The captain was saying there's a very slim chance of seeing it, one in 20,000 I think he said and so yeah, to see it was amazing." “Sure enough, up popped a white whale, which was quite amazing,” Ken Yates of Whale Watching Sydney recounted. “I never thought I’d see it in my lifetime and I’ll probably never see it again.”
According to The Independent, Migaloo was first spotted down under in 1991 off Byron Bay, making it the first documented sighting of an all-white humpback in the world. That was the case for many years until 2011, when a juvenile all-white humpback whale was seen. Oskar Peterson, who runs The White Whale Research Centre, which tracks the unique mammals, told CNN, "We have photos of a junior Migaloo from a few years ago, but we haven't seen him since so we don't know if he survived the South Ocean.” The Independent reports that the Migaloo Junior appeared in the same larger group as Migaloo, but it is unknown if the two are related.
The White Whale Research Centre writes that in October 2004, researchers from Southern Cross University Whale Research Centre collected Migaloo’s skin samples that fell into the water when he breached. The DNA was analyzed and it was found that the white whale was male. Peterson’s organization believes that Migaloo was born in 1986 and says that he is suspected to be albino, “but without definitive evidence for the moment he is known as a ‘hypo-pigmented’ humpback.”
A female whale watcher told the Associated Press, "It was really just so white and you could see him coming from a long way away because the water was turquoise wherever he was passing under."
Migaloo is so beloved by Australians that Queensland & Commonwealth Government animal welfare legislation has dedicated a special clause just for the all-white whale, granting him additional protection from whale watchers. With a twitter (@Migaloo1) and Facebook (Migaloo the White Whale) account with thousands of fans, the added safety is important to ensure that he will live a long life, as humpbacks in the wild can live up to100 years.