(TMU) – Migaloo, who is arguably the most famous humpback whale in the world, was spotted Tuesday, June 15, making his way north along the east coast of Australia on his annual migration.
About 35,000 humpback whales, which include Migaloo, make the grueling journey from Antarctica to the waters off of Queensland each year.
The White Whale Research Centre and Great Barrier Reef Legacy dedicated a Twitter account for Migaloo to let everyone know about his movements. The first sighting of the season was on Tuesday.
The Twitter account said: “A white whale possibly Migaloo has been sighted along the NSW South Coast heading north. Estimated to cruise past Sydney anytime soon and Cape Byron anytime from Wednesday this week.”
First spotted in 1991 as a juvenile, Migaloo has gained enthusiastic support from followers who love to see and capture him on camera and video. The first photograph taken of him was from over 5 km away and through a telescope. The blurry result made it impossible to determine if he was in fact all white.
Pacific Whale.Org wrote on their blog:
‘’In 1993 Pacific Whale Foundation researchers encountered this amazing white whale in Hervey Bay, Queensland. During this encounter we were able confirm the whale was all white and in 1998, we recorded the whale singing, a trait distinct to male humpback whales.’’
This was confirmed by scientists at Southern Cross University through Genetic testing in 2004. Migaloo has several physical traits that scientists can use to confirm his identity. They are able to confirm it is him with markers such as the dorsal fin on his back, which is slightly hooked, and his tail flukes that have a distinctive shape with spiked edges.
The blog continued: ‘’After sharing our remarkable discovery with the public, there was an outcry to ‘name the whale’. It was decided that the naming of the whale should be done by the elders of the local aboriginal collective in Hervey Bay. Ultimately they named this animal “Migaloo” or “white fella”. The elders 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’.’’
Twenty years later, another all-white humpback calf was discovered, and over the years, there has been sightings of white orcas, and a bottlenose dolphin with albinism. Migaloo is indeed a very rare humpback whale.
Adjunct fellow at Southern Cross University, and the founding director of The Oceania Project, Dr Wally Franklin, said Migaloo is now into his 30s and will hopefully live as long as 100 years.
“He is now well and truly fully grown and fully mature. He’s mature socially and physically,” Dr Franklin said about Migaloo’s migratory habits last year.
“It doesn’t appear that he has had any issues with predators and he has an expectation to living as long as 100 years, which is the generally-believed life expectancy.
“Reports of his sightings have been available for just about every year of his life and so he has been very useful in cataloging whale movements. Those sightings are very valuable in confirming migratory timing.”
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Everyone at The White Whale Research Centre is jumping for joy! After carefully analysing the photos of a mysterious ‘white whale’ spotted very early in the season off of Port Douglas, it appears to actually be the big guy himself – #migaloo!! Photos of migaloo’s tail fluke were taken by @wavelengthreefcruises on Wednesday, which were able to be compared to those taken of migaloo previous years. It’s hard to believe, since this time in 2015 he was near New Zealand! To be so far north this time of year is both strange and very interesting. Thanks to crew onboard Silversonic for the photos taken on Friday of migaloo breaching #whitewhale #humpbackwhale #humpback #portdouglasdaintree #exploretnq #gbrmarinepark #thisisqueensland
While all humpback whales are protected under Australian Federal law, Migaloo and other humpback whales that are more than 90% white are “special management marine mammals” and have extra protection: boats and vessels cannot approach within 500 meters and aircraft cannot approach within 610 meters.
These laws were put into place because Migaloo’s fans act irresponsibly in their excitement to see him and he was struck by a boat in 2003 which resulted in him getting scarred on his back. According to Queensland’s laws, tour operator’s vessels are not allowed within 500 meters of the whale when he finally gets to Australia. Vessels can be fined up to AU $16,500 (US $11,298) if they break the rules.
Migaloo wasn’t initially considered albino because his eyes are brown and not the typical red or pink associated with albinism, and was called ’all-white’, or ‘hypo-pigmented’. However, in 2011, researchers at the Australian Marine Mammal Centre studied his DNA and found a genetic variation leading to albinism which confirmed that Migaloo is in fact a true albino.
This year has unfortunately not been a favorable one for international travel, but those who reside on Australia’s east coast will be keeping a lookout to spot the famous whale. For the rest of us, there’s always hope for a trip to the Sunshine Coast next year.
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Blue Whales Return to Spain’s Coast After Disappearing for 40 Years
Blue whales have been returning to the Atlantic coast of Spain after an absence of over 40 years in the region, when whaling industries drove the species to the brink of extinction.
Blue whales, which are the world’s largest mammals, had long disappeared from the region until the recent sightings.
The first was spotted off the coast of Galicia near Ons Island by marine biologist Bruno Díaz, who heads the Bottlenose Dolphin Research.
Another one of the majestic creatures was spotted the following year in 2018 and yet another in 2019. In 2020, two whales again made their return to the area.
It remains unclear as of yet as to why the creatures have returned to the area, but controls on local whaling industries are believed to play a role.
“I believe the moratorium on whaling has been a key factor,” Díaz remarked, according to the Guardian. “In the 1970s, just before the ban was introduced, an entire generation of blue whales disappeared. Now, more than 40 years later, we’re seeing the return of the descendants of the few that survived.”
Whaling had been a traditional industry in Galicia for hundreds of years before Spain finally acted to ban whaling in 1986, long after the blue whale’s presence in the region had faded away.
Some fear that the return of the massive sea mammals is a sign of global warming.
“I’m pessimistic because there’s a high possibility that climate change is having a major impact on the blue whale’s habitat,” said marine biologist Alfredo López in comments to La Voz de Galicia.
“Firstly, because they never venture south of the equator, and if global warming pushes this line north, their habitat will be reduced,” he continued “And secondly, if it means the food they normally eat is disappearing, then what we’re seeing is dramatic and not something to celebrate.”
Díaz said that while the data certainly supports this theory, it is too early to determine climate as the precise cause.
“It is true that the data we have points to this trend [climate change] but it is not enough yet,” he told Público news.
Another possibility is that the ancestral memory of the old creatures or even a longing for their home may offer an explanation, according to Díaz.
“In recent years it’s been discovered that the blue whale’s migration is driven by memory, not by environmental conditions,” he said. “This year there hasn’t been a notable increase in plankton, but here they are. Experiences are retained in the collective memory and drive the species to return.”
In recent years, researchers have found that migratory patterns are also driven by the cultural knowledge existing in many groups of species.
Researchers believe this type of folk memory, or cultural knowledge, exists in many species and is key to their survival.
A typical blue whale is 20-24 metres long and weighs 120 tonnes – equivalent to 16 elephants – but specimens of up to 30 metres and 170 tonnes have been found.