“Call me Migaloo,” would start the memoir of the most famous white humpback whale out there. He’s not quite from the pages of Moby Dick—Herman Melville’s white whale was a sperm whale and not entirely white—but Migaloo still makes quite a splash when he lifts his head or tail above the waves.
First spotted in 1991, he’s been seen more than 50 times since, including a few times around the Great Barrier Reef this summer. But the probable-but-unconfirmed spotting by Jenny Dean, a Queensland, Australia native, takes the cake. A few weeks ago, she captured Migaloo breaching in a spectacular photo, showcasing the whale’s bright whiteness that nearly looks photoshopped.
What do we know about Migaloo?
In the past 22 years since whale watchers first spotted the exceedingly social Migaloo—so-called after the Aboriginal word for “white fella”—scientists have been able to learn a bit about him.
They think he was around 3-5 years old when first spotted, which makes him 25-27 now. Barring an unfortunate accident, he may have another 50 years ahead of him, although scientists don’t know for sure how long humpback whales live because they don’t have teeth—like tree rings, analyzing concentric layers in teeth is a common way to measure age in mammals.
- Migaloo is an adult white male humpback whale, estimated to have been born in 1986.
- He was first spotted in 1991 passing through Byron Bay.
- It’s estimated that Migaloo was 3-5 years old when he was first sighted.
- Migaloo has brown eyes and his white exterior shows some signs of sun damage.
- When Migaloo was first sighted he was the only known white whale in the world.
- Migaloo’s song was first recorded in 1998, which convinced researchers that Migaloo was in fact a male due to his knack for melody.
- The whale’s sex was then confirmed by researchers from the Southern Cross University in 2004 when they were able to obtain skin samples.
- Until September 2011 it was thought that Migaloo was the only white whale in existence, after which, an all-white humpback calf emerged.
- ‘Migaloo’ means ‘white fella’ in some Aboriginal languages.
His maleness was further confirmed by DNA after researchers from Lismore, Australia’s Southern Cross University, collected skin samples from Migaloo in 2004
And did you know ?! Australian whale-watching laws require boats to stay about 1,000 feet from all humpbacks, but a special law requires watercraft to stay at least 1,600 feet away from Migaloo.