Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF) is pleased to offer this website as a means of documenting the activities of Migaloo, the only documented albino humpback whale in the world.

Migaloo is perhaps the most famous humpback whale in the world. His distinctive absence of pigmentation due to albinism allows people to easily identify him and report sightings. He was first spotted in 1991 off Byron Bay, Queensland by a group of volunteers conducting a whale count. The first photograph of Migaloo was taken through a telescope from a distance of over 5km away. It was blurry and unclear if he was all white. In 1993 PWF researchers encountered this amazing white whale in Hervey Bay, Queensland. During our first encountered we were able confirm the whale was all white, and in 1998 PWF recorded the whale singing, a trait distinct to male humpback whales. Read our research paper on Migaloo >

After sharing our remarkable discovery with the public, there was an outcry to ‘name the whale’. Dr. Paul Forestell (then PWF Research Director now Board Member) and PWF Founder and Executive Director Greg Kaufman decided the naming of the whale should be done by the elders of the local aboriginal collective in Hervey Bay. After conferring with Dr. Forestell and examining images of the white whale, they asked to have a few days to consider a name. Ultimately they named the white whale “Migaloo” or “white fella”. The elders further explained their connection to all white or albino animals and that they appear on earth to be respected and revered, that their unique color demonstrates the need to respect all forms of life even if they appear different than ‘normal’. They should be honored with reverence and respect not discrimination and shame.

Since this initial encounter Migaloo has been seen dozens of times. PWF researchers estimated he was 8 – 10 years at time of initial sighting making him approximately 32-36 years old in 2015. He has been observed in New Zealand waters but primarily off east Australia migrating as far north as Cooktown and south past Sydney.

Migaloo is a member of the east Australian population of humpback whales. Migaloo’s population of humpback whales feed in Antarctica from November to April and migrates along the east coast of Australia to breed near the Great Barrier Reef from May to October.

Scientists were initially skeptical to state Migaloo has albinism because his eyes are brown, rather than the typical red or pink. In the past he has been called the more conservative terms “all-white”, or “hypo-pigmented”. However, a 2011 study of his DNA by researchers at the Australian Marine Mammal Centre found a genetic variation leading to albinism.

Genetic testing confirmed another fact about Migaloo: he is a male. Scientists already knew this to be the case because of his song. While both male and female humpback whales can produce sounds, only the males sing songs. In 1998 researchers first recorded Migaloo singing, thus indicating he is a male. This was confirmed by genetic testing in 2004.

Are there other predominately white humpback whales in the world’s oceans? Yes, PWF researchers have observed whales that are over 90% white off east Australia, and in 2011 observed a newborn nearly all white male calf in the Whitsundays. This whale was named Chalkie and some have called him Migaloo Junior, however is not known to be the offspring of Migaloo – they may or may not be related. Chalkie does have one small black dot on the dorsal surface of his left fluke making him not quite all white meaning he does not have albinism. Recently a video of what appears to be an all white humpback whale feeding in waters off Norway was released on the internet which depicts a whale that looks like Migaloo, until the whale lifts its tail to dive and its fluke pattern is 75% black! There have also been sightings of white orcas, a white right whale and a bottlenose dolphin with albinism throughout the years.

If you would like to support Pacific Whale Foundation by “adopting” Migaloo, visit the Adopt-A-Whale program.

Send us your Migaloo sightings and photos – we'll post them here!

All photographs copyright Pacific Whale Foundation.

The Migaloo mystery: Confusion over rare white whale spotted near Australia

By Jenni Ryall
August 16, 2015

"It is Migaloo."

Those are the words of a leading scientist who is 100% convinced the white whale spotted off the coast of Australia on Aug. 10 is the world famous albino humpback, Migaloo.

Executive director and chief scientist at the Pacific Whale Foundation, Greg Kaufman, who has been studying Migaloo for decades, confirmed to Mashable Australia that the whale spotted off the Gold Coast, Australia earlier this week is the beloved creature.

This claim has been disputed by other whale experts — and only a DNA test, taken in July and with results expected shortly, will conclusively prove it.

Continue reading this article from Mashable here:

Whale debate: Was it Migaloo or not?

August 11, 2015

A MAJESTIC white whale swam past the Gold Coast yesterday but marine experts can’t agree on whether it was the famed Migaloo or an upstart challenger to his title.

The experts spent much of yesterday studying the physical features of the giant marine mammal which appeared to glow as it swam about three nautical miles off Coast beaches.

Despite detailed images of the creature’s colouring, dorsal fin and tail flukes and notches, scientists and whale enthusiasts could only agree to disagree.

Continue reading this article here:

Migaloo and his growing herd move north

25 June 2007
A record number of humpback whales are passing North Stradbroke Island as UQ researchers start aerial surveys to verify their numbers. The first whales for this year's survey of an estimated 10,000 strong humpback population were counted from Point Lookout on North Stradbroke Island last Tuesday on their annual migration into the Great Barrier Reef. Among them is Migaloo, the rare all-white whale.

Migaloo and his growing herd move north

Whale sightings spark shark control preparation

Thu Apr 26, 2007

Migaloo is on the move

Wednesday 05 July 2006
Southern Cross University researchers had a spectacular start to the annual two-week Cape Byron Whale Research Project as Migaloo trekked past the coast flanked by several other whales and pods of dolphins yesterday (June 26). The annual count started on Sunday, June 25, and will continue for 13 days until July 7. Dan Burns, who is one of the co-ordinators of the project and a PhD student with the Southern Cross University Whale Research Centre, was on the water hoping to collect another sloughed skin sample from Migaloo as he passed.

Migaloo's turtle cousin

Monday, 3 July 2006

Migaloo spotted off Coffs Harbour

Sunday, June 25, 2006
Migaloo is on his way to Queensland waters. The rare white whale, Migaloo, has been sighted near the Solitary Islands off Coffs Harbour on the New South Wales mid-north coast. The whale is on its northerly migration from Antarctica to breeding grounds in Queensland.

Migaloo spotted off Coffs Harbour

Stormy seas for Migaloo and friends

Like the most fabled of whales, Migaloo is elusive. The "white fella" has been seen many times off the east coast of Australia over the past 15 years, but has also disappeared for up to three years at a time. So when the whale researcher Daniel Burns heard too late that the world's only totally white humpback had passed Cape Byron on a northward migration last June, his disappointment was real.

Stormy seas for Migaloo and friends

University says white whale is male

Thursday, 7 October 2004 – A historic genetic test has confirmed Migaloo the white whale is male. Researchers at Lismore's Southern Cross University in northern New South Wales collected skin samples from the mammal as it travelled with another whale on its southern migration. The University's Dan Burns says it is the first time a genetic sample has been taken from an albino whale or dolphin. He says researchers were extremely fortunate.

When an eligible whale leaves his bachelor pod

June 28, 2004 – The romantic notion of a white whale hit unprecedented amorous heights yesterday when Migaloo, the world's only identified pale humpback, paraded what is thought to be a new girlfriend off the state's Far North Coast.

When an eligible whale leaves his bachelor pod

Migaloo and mate paint a living portrait

June 23, 2004 – Migaloo, the pure white humpback whale, is heading north with his 'girlfriend', a regular humpback. The rare white humpback and his mate were frolicking off Kingscliff in northern NSW yesterday.

Migaloo and mate paint a living portrait

White whale spotted off NSW

Tuesday, 22 June 2004 – The white whale Migaloo has been sighted in waters off northern New South Wales this morning. Travelling with three other humpbacks, the white whale passed by the Cape Byron lighthouse about 600 metres off-shore.

White whale spotted off NSW

Syndicate content