Ever since Moby-Dick, the phrase “white whale” has come to refer to anything that’s relentlessly pursued but incredibly hard to find.
But for some whale watching enthusiasts, it really is a white whale they’re after: albino whales are incredibly rare to find, so spotting one is a very special experience.
In fact there is believed to be only one all-white adult whale in the world, and he’s a true legend: Migaloo, described by the Pacific Whale Foundation as the “most famous humpback whale in the world.”
Migaloo, which fittingly means “white fella” in indigenous languages, is often spotted around the coasts of Australia. He was first seen in 1991, and his rarity has made him the subject of interest and speculation ever since.
According to Australian Geographic, he’s now believed to be over 30 years old, and they said we’d see less of him as he gets older and swims further off shore.
“You would have to be quite lucky. I’ve only seen him once in my entire career of whale watching,” Macquarie University Marine Scientist Dr Vanessa Pirotta told the Daily Mail. “Migaloo is one of around 40,000 humpback whales so essentially it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.”
But recently, some whale watchers had an unconfirmed sighting of the legendary whale.
As Migaloo made his annual migration from Antarctica to Queensland, Australia, flying instructor Ross Costanzo and his girlfriend Kym Machin flew overhead trying to get a sight of the whale.
About a kilometer off the South Coast, they saw two large whales… and one of them was white:
However, no one can be sure it was Migaloo. Neither could confidently identify the whale, and the photo isn’t clear enough to confirm.
“Both me and Kym were pretty sure it was the famous Migaloo, but we’re not experts on whales,” Ross Costanzo told ABC. “Unless there’s two I don’t know whether we saw the real McCoy.”
His girlfriend said she later spoke to someone who was “fairly certain” their whale was Migaloo.
Another potential sighting was made by Leigh Mansfield, a rescue manager for the Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia, He too couldn’t be “100% certain” that it was Migaloo, saying there were other partially-white whales mistaken for Migaloo.
Whether or not we get an official, confirmed sighting of Migaloo soon, he remains one of nature’s most fascinating and mysterious creatures.
And his fame, and the excitement surrounding his sightings, could help bring attention to the fight to save and protect whales.
“Migaloo is like the rock star for the ocean world because he’s showing that we should care about the ocean,” Dr. Pirotta told the Daily Mail. “But also remembering that because he’s so famous we need to be aware of our actions on the water.”
What an incredible creature! It must be amazing to spot Migaloo in person. Share this incredible story!