A popular sight off Australia’s east coast, Migaloo is the world’s first documented all-white humpback whale. Aboriginal elders gave him the name, which means “white fella” in their language. Here are some facts about this popular pale whale.
1. Migaloo has been seen more than 50 times since his first documented appearance in 1991 near Cairns, Australia.
2. The 46-foot-long creature is believed to be about 26 to 28 years old now. Life expectancy for humpbacks is about 50 years.
3. We know he’s a he for two reasons: he sings like a male, and because after one of his many celebrated breaches, researchers scooted in to collect dead skin cells he’d sloughed off. The DNA confirmed his gender.
4. In September 2011, an all-white humpback whale calf appeared with a normally pigmented mother. The little pale cetacean may be Migaloo’s offspring, so it has been named MJ or Migaloo Jr.
5. Is Migaloo albino? Nobody knows for sure, so he’s described as hypo-pigmented, meaning he has very low pigment.
6. Other mostly white humpbacks have been sighted; Willow lives in the Arctic, and Bahloo lives near Migaloo, but both have a few black spots, so Migaloo and MJ are the only all-white whales known so far.
7. 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.
8. Because he’s so recognizable, Migaloo has helped scientists better understand whale migrations off the Australian coast. His entire migration up from Antarctic waters to the Great Barrier Reef is almost 7,500 miles.