An exceedingly rare white humpback has been spotted off the Gold Coast of Australia, and observers are attempting to determine whether it is Migaloo, the famed whale known to migrate past the region.
Looking like something out of a Herman Melville novel, the white whale was spotted Monday morning by a news helicopter operating off the Queensland coast, the Independent reports. The sighting immediately stoked speculation that the humpback in question might be Migaloo, but knowledgeable observers are being careful in their assessments, saying that more information is necessary before drawing any definitive conclusions.
— Nine News Brisbane (@9NewsBrisbane) August 10, 2015
Oskar Peterson has been compiling information regarding Migaloo for two decades, and according to Mashable, he noted that further photographs are needed before the white whale can be positively identified. Aside from his distinctive coloring, Migaloo can be identified by a crooked hook fin and a scar along his back, the result of a 2003 encounter with a trimaran, as the Inquisitr has previously reported. Since neither of these features are clearly visible in the photos of the white whale, Peterson notes that the animal may not be Migaloo.
“The photos coming in are inconclusive. He seems to be very shining white, while last year he had yellow coloring markings on him.”
While acknowledging that the whale in the photographs could very well be Migaloo, Peterson pointed to the timing of the animal’s migration, as well as its size, in assessing its identity.
“This could well be Migaloo, but at this moment in time I am leaning towards that it is not. Due to his size and lack of photos at the moment, but also the timing of the year. It is very unusual.”
— The Australian (@australian) August 10, 2015
First spotted in 1991 off Australia’s Byron Bay, Migaloo migrates from Queensland to the Antarctic ocean each year, a journey of roughly 5,000 miles. His path generally takes the whale past the Gold Coast in late June, and again in late October. While Migaloo is unique, he is also hardly the only white whale to be swimming off Australia, Peterson noted.
“We know there were two white whales born the size of Migaloo on the east coast in the last four or five years. We also believe there is one that cruises up the west coast of Australia but we don’t have photographic evidence of it.”
While researchers wait for better evidence to assess the animal’s identity, Peterson notes that the whale in question could likely be Migaloo Junior, an all-white calf first spotted by researchers in 2011. Citing the apparent size of the white whale sighted today, SeaWorld marine sciences director Trevor Long concurred, asserting that the animal was indeed Migaloo Junior.
[Photo by Getty Images]