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:

Rare whale lives life of mystery

Herman Melville's fictional white whale in "Moby Dick" was a sperm whale, a rare member of that species that lacked pigmentation. There are naturally white whales, notably the beluga, which starts life gray and turns white as it gets older. But white whales are unusual. What about white humpbacks? "There has never been a documented occurrence of an albino humpback whale anywhere in the world," said Paul Forestell of the Pacific Whale Foundation.

Rare whale lives life of mystery

White-whale watchers facing fine

Whale watchers keen to get a glimpse of the albino humpback migrating north along the Queensland coast will have to keep their distance or risk being fined $12,000. Queensland Environment Minister Dean Wells has declared the mammal, which has sparked a high degree of interest since its reappearance, a "special interest whale."

White-whale watchers facing fine

New "Moby Dick"? Boat crasher a rare white whale

A 10-ton whale that leaped into a yacht near Australia seems to have survived the impact without major injury, authorities said, but the only known albino humpback faces a new threat, human stalkers.

New "Moby Dick"? Boat crasher a rare white whale

Fate of Migaloo remains a mystery

Environmental officers will decide today whether to continue an aerial search for the rare albino humpback Migaloo after a yacht owner reported he had struck it off the north Queensland coast.

Fate of Migaloo remains a mystery

Search for albino whale

A transcript of a conversation with skipper David Snell, whose boat struck Migaloo back in mid-August.

Search for albino whale

"Moby Dick" stirs excitement in Australian waters

An extremely rare albino whale has been spotted off the Australian coast, prompting a call on Friday for whale-watchers, seafarers and even aircraft to look out for the real-life Moby Dick.

"Moby Dick" stirs excitement in Australian waters

Underwater photographer denies harassing rare albino humpback whale

QUEENSLAND, Australia (July 11, 2003) – The Gold Coast man who swam with a rare albino whale yesterday says the close encounter was completely unintentional. The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service is investigating the incident to determine if underwater cameraman Gery Philpot broke the law. It is investigating whether he approached the whale or if the whale swam to him and whether it happened in Queensland or New South Wales waters.

Underwater photographer denies harassing rare albino humpback whale

Hervey Bay a prime spot for hobnobbing with Humpbacks

An estimated 1500 to 1800 humpback whales migrate annually 5000km from Antarctic waters to the warmer tropical waters of the Great Barrier Reef in June, where they mate and give birth. Between August and November, many of these whales are seen in Hervey Bay, where they rest before heading south again.

Hervey Bay a prime spot for hobnobbing with Humpbacks

Migaloo struggles to hook the ladies

While Migaloo's spectacular white skin has humans amazed, it appears it has not given him too much of a leg-up in the whale dating world, scientists from ...

See all stories on this topic

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