Everything you need to know about Migaloo

This year Migaloo turns 30-years-old! Have you seen him yet?
By Australian Geographic July 17, 2017 Reading Time: 2 Minutes Print this page

Here’s everything you need to know about Migaloo, the white whale

  • Migaloo is an adult white male humpback whale, estimated to have been born in 1986.
  • He was first spotted in 1991 passing through Byron Bay.
  • It’s estimated that Migaloo was 3-5 years old when he was first sighted.
  • Migaloo has brown eyes and his white exterior shows some signs of sun damage.
  • When Migaloo was first sighted he was the only known white whale in the world.
  • Migaloo’s song was first recorded in 1998, which convinced researchers that Migaloo was in fact a male due to his knack for melody.
  • The whale’s sex was then confirmed by researchers from the Southern Cross University in 2004 when they were able to obtain skin samples.
  • Until September 2011 it was thought that Migaloo was the only white whale in existence, after which, an all-white humpback calf emerged.
  • ‘Migaloo’ means ‘white fella’ in some Aboriginal languages.
  • Despite being almost completely white, Migaloo is referred to as ‘hypopigmented’ rather than ‘albino’.
  • Scientists say that it’s possible Migaloo is ‘leucistic,’, which refers to partial loss of pigmentation.
  • Migaloo is a part of Australia’s eastern humpback whale population.
  • Migaloo is protected by the Australian National Guidelines for Whale and Dolphin Watching in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act Regulations.
  • However Migaloo has been given extra protection due to his uniqueness under Queensland & Commonwealth Government legislation that is enacted each whale season which says that a vessel will be fined $16 500 if it comes within 500 metres of the white whale.
  • Nevertheless, Migaloo hasn’t been immune to some collisions. The whale collided with a trimaran, a type of boat, on the Queensland coast on 2003.
  • Besides Migaloo, there are only 3-4 other known white whales, making them exceedingly rare.
  • The other white whales go by the names of Bahloo, Willow and Migaloo Jnr, all humpback whales,
  • The first official sighting of Migaloo for 2017 was on the 8 July, off the NSW coast.
  • In 2015 scientists explained that it’s likely we’ll see less and less of Migaloo as he matures and swims further offshore.


(Image Credit: Craig Parry, Whale Watching Sydney)