But who is Migaloo and why is he so adored?
First spotted off Australia’s most easterly point of Byron Bay on 28th June 1991, Migaloo is an all white humpback whale.
His name, Migaloo, comes from the word used by the Queensland Australian Aboriginal community to describe a ‘white fella’. Explaining their connection to all white or albino animals, elders stated that they appear on earth to be respected and revered. Their unique colour demonstrates the need to respect all forms of life even if they appear different than ‘normal’. And they should be honoured with reverence and respect, not discrimination and shame.
Scientists were initially hesitant 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; confirming that Migaloo is a true albino (source: Pacific Whale Foundation).
In October 2004 scientists were able to collect some small pieces of skin following a breach. They analysed the DNA and were able to confirm that Migaloo is a male. He is also believed to have been born in 1986.
How can he be identified?
There are a number of ways in which scientists identify Migaloo. The obvious characteristic is that he is all white, but there are also other physical defining traits. His dorsal fin (on his back) is slightly hooked. And his tail flukes have a distinctive shape, with spiked edges along the lower trailing side.
While he looks very distinctive he is a fairly rare sight. Some whale spotting tour operators only having caught a glimpse of him once in their 20 year career.
There are estimated to be three other white humpback’s in our oceans and seas. They are called Bahloo, Willow and Migaloo Jr.
You can find more details here on how Craig captured this iconic image.