White Whale

Migaloo breaching. Photo credit: NT Government

 

HE’S bright white, 14 metres long and is currently having a WHALE of a time off the east coast of Australia. It’s Migaloo, Australia’s favourite bright white whale!

 

Migaloo, which is the Aboriginal name for ‘white fella’, is a rare albino humpback whale. He is so rare in fact, that from the early 1990s, when he was first identified, until late 2011, he was believed to be the only albino whale in existence! That all changed of course, when an all-white humpback calf he fathered, was discovered.

 

Over the last month or two, Migaloo has had several reported sightings off the east coast of Australia, as he dazzles excited onlookers with displays of breaching, spyhopping and tail-slapping while making his way up the coast to warmer waters as part of the annual humpback migration; a 10,000 kilometre journey from the krill-filled waters of the Antarctic to the warmer waters off the coast of Queensland.

 

This curious whale has even been filmed swimming right up to whale watching boats, to the squealing delight of onlookers keen to catch a glimpse of this stunning white miracle.

 

 
 

Migaloo near Cairns. Video credit: Big Cat Green Island Reef Cruises

 

Official sightings of Migaloo have been made at Seal Rocks and Byron Bay in NSW, and the Gold Coast, Moreton Island, South Stradbroke Island and the Great Barrier Reef in QLD, just to name a few.

 

For the first time, he has also been seen in the waters off Lady Elliot Island in QLD. Here, some lucky tourists got more than they bargained for when they had the remarkable and surprising experience of swimming up-close with Migaloo himself. A glass bottom boat specially designed for an up-close view of the reef including its marine life and coral, was out exploring when some of the holiday makers who were snorkelling, heard a sound that turned out to be a whale singing. They looked around and spotted Migaloo at close range, who made eye contact with them. Meanwhile, those who remained in the glass bottom boat were treated to an up-close whale watching experience like no other, as Migaloo swam under the boat. The holiday makers were ecstatic about this once-in-a-lifetime encounter.

 

White Whale

Migaloo spy-hopping

 

Oblivious to all the attention and fame he’s receiving as he migrates north during the whale breeding season, Migaloo is creating important awareness about whales and the marine environment for future generations to appreciate. Migaloo is protected under Australian law and part of Australia's east coast humpback population that has been brought back from the brink of extinction following the halting of the whaling industry in the early 1960s.

 

Since then, there has been a steady increase in the number of whales. Thirty years ago, there was less than a thousand whales and now there is over 20,000 of them. The whale population is growing, and positive awareness about these magnificent creatures, is certainly helping this cause.