A rare albino whale, thought to be the most famous white humpback Migaloo in the world, washed up on Mallacoota, eastern Victoria, Australia.
On Saturday morning, the carcass of a whale was found on the beach. Accessible only by water, it can be reached only from there. It is not known how long the whale carcass was there.
Many believe the dead animal could be Migaloo, a snow-white whale that has been regularly spotted off Australia’s coast since 1991. It is now a bit of a sea celebrity.
Peter Coles, a local resident, was fishing when he crossed the river to view the dead mammal. He told Sky News that it was beautiful, even though it was dead. It was quite amazing. It looked pure white and marble-like. It almost looked real, even though it seemed like a sculpture to me.
It was about 10m in length. It was quite smelly and I didn’t touch. It didn’t look like it had been decomposed, but it looked very, very dead.”
Coles took photographs of the humpback and said: “I felt sorry for the poor creature. Not knowing it might have been Migaloo.”
He stated that he only learned about the albino whale later, and added: “When the talk started, I realized it could be something very rare if the white whale is it.” This would be a sign that I saw something extraordinary without realizing it.
Photos and genetic sampling used to identify whale identity
Migaloo, a male humpback that was born in 1986, has been missing the past two years since he lost his tracking chip.
According to marine experts, the location of the whale is consistent with Migaloo’s migration patterns.
Scientists are currently trying to determine whether the whale is Migaloo by using photographs and genetic sampling.
Dr Vanessa Pirotta, a wildlife scientist, is part of the investigation and tweeted: “Currently working together with other scientists to identify the individual. This could be #Migaloo. There is nothing confirmed. #watchthisspace”.
Coles said that he wasn’t sure if the creature could have been called Migaloo. He pointed to its size and told Sky News: “People are quite hesitant calling it Migaloo because many thought the whale was larger.”
Migaloo is estimated to measure approximately 15m in length and weigh around 40-tonnes.
People were warned not to touch the dead whales or cause damage to them. Victoria’s environment department (DELWP Victoria), has stated that anyone who attempts to collect unauthorised samples, such as teeth, for souvenir purposes will face severe penalties.
Migaloo, which means “white fellow”, in Aboriginal is the name of the only all-white humpback whale.
In 2010, Migaloo was filmed at 1.2 miles from Green Island, near the Great Barrier Reef in North Queensland. This was the first ever time that such a creature has been captured on film.
The expected life expectancy of humpback whales is between 45 and 50 years. Migaloo, if current estimates are correct would be 36 years old.