Migaloo, the only documented white humpack whale in the world, is drawing a lot of media attention to the Queensland, Australia coastline.

Pacific Whale Foundation is pleased to offer this website as a means to document the activities of this unusual marine mammal, and to monitor the interactions between the whale and curious humans.

Please note that all photographs are copyrighted material.
Pacific Whale Foundation has been following reported sightings of Migaloo, which means “White Fella” in the Aborginal Australian language. Vice President Paul Forestell, who began monitoring Migaloo soon after the whale was first spotted in 1991, helped to coin the name based on advice from an Aboriginal elder.

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Migaloo’s turtle cousin
Monday, 3 July 2006
While Migaloo keeps to the southern Queensland waters, he has a relation of sorts in the Tropical North – an albino turtle who was found on Mackay’s Blacks Beach about three months ago. There were grave concerns for the welfare of the cute white turtle who was shipped off to the Great Barrier Reef Marina Park Authority’s Reef HQ in Townsville to be monitored and cared for. Turtle carer Paul Groves is pleased to report that the little fellow is doing very well indeed. After arriving at Reef HQ weighing 24g and measuring 51mm in length, he’s now a whopping 140g and 105mm long. “He’s actually outgrown his tank,” Paul explains.

Stormy seas for Migaloo and friends
April 20, 2005
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.

An overview of Migaloo in the context of the drive to resume whaling

Migaloo and mateUniversity 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.

“It was actually his mate breached and we were sort of thinking, beauty, we can get skin there and find out information about that whale, and then about 10 seconds later, Migaloo breached about 30 metres away,” he said. “From there and we were able to head over there and small bits of skin fall off, we just go over and scoop that up and away we go!”

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.

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.

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.

Australia’s White Whale Charges Boats
A rare white whale making its way up Australia’s east coast is showing signs he is growing tired of his celebrity status.

Rare albino whale cruises Sydney
June 17, 2004 – The world’s only known albino humpback whale has cruised past Sydney’s coastline today, heading north for winter. Migaloo was sighted off Sydney’s premier whale watching lookout at Cape Solander in Botany Bay National Park late this morning.

Fans told to give Migaloo wide berth
23jun04 – MIGALOO the white humpback has been declared a whale of special interest to ensure safe passage during his annual migration through Queensland waters. The declaration took effect yesterday.

Leave the rare humpback alone, says LI professor
Paul Forestell will never forget his first encounter with the rare white whale Migaloo, who has been at the center of an international hullabaloo in recent days. It was in 1992, when Forestell, now a professor at Southampton College of Long Island University, was working on a project about humpback whales in Australia. Forestell had seen thousands of humpbacks in the wild. He believed he knew what to expect. Then he spotted the white whale in Hervey Bay, north of Brisbane. “I thought it would be this shoddy, scratched up whale,” he says. “This thing glowed in the water. It seemed like a sacred being.”

Experts on Rare All-White Humpback Whale Ask World to “Give Him Space”
“We are concerned about the well-being of this unusual and beautiful whale,” says Greg Kaufman, President and founder of Pacific Whale Foundation. “This year, the attention to the whale has reached astounding proportions, and the whale is becoming victimized by his star status.”

Migaloo at the surfaceCall for sightings of Migaloo
Researchers from Queensland’s Environmental Protection Agency are on the lookout for Migaloo the white whale so that further information about him can be gathered. Environment Minister Dean Wells said EPA researchers wanted to find the whale, both for scientific purposes and to allow a follow-up health check after his recent collision with a trimaran. “If anybody spots the whale I ask them to report the location to the marine strandings hotline on 1-300-360-898.” Mr Wells said scientists were particularly interested in retrieving a skin sample, which would allow DNA testing to be conducted.

White whale tracked for DNA
The Queensland government said today it would allow researchers to track down and obtain a DNA sample from Migaloo

A Plea for a Whale
On 13 September 1992, while conducting humpback whale research in Hervey Bay for the Pacific Whale Foundation and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, I got word there was an all-white humpback whale out in Platypus Bay, along the west side of Fraser Island. My research assistants and I went to the area to see the most amazing whale I have seen in 25 years of studying them – a pure white whale, approximately 13 meters long, with pectoral fins stretched 5 meters out to either side of its body.

Scientists plan to track the rare white whale Migaloo
The Queensland Government is moving to protect Migaloo, the world’s only known white humpback whale, by fitting it with a radio-tracking device. Environment Minister Dean Wells says that after a yacht hit the whale off Townsville, the government has decided to do more to protect it.

Search finds white whale
Migaloo was spotted by a boat operator 7 nautical miles south-southeast of Palm Island just after lunch yesterday. Late yesterday afternoon, State Environment Minister Dean Wells formally extended a special protection order which has declared the whale an animal of special interest. An aerial sighting of Migaloo found it was swimming with another whale.

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.

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.”

Aerial photo of MigalooNew “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.

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.

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

“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.

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.

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.

Whale-watch fears over scallop farm
Whale-watching tour operators have called for an immediate halt to a planned sea scallop ranch in Hervey Bay after the developers yesterday confirmed they would start operation in November. Hervey Bay whale-watch industry spokesman Peter Lynch said he was not opposed to a scallop ranch but wanted one of the two trial sites moved out of Platypus Bay on western Fraser Island.

Sshhh! The Whales are Courting Below
In his 1996 study of the impact of vessel noise on humpback whales in the whale-watching area of Hervey bay in Queensland, Mr McCauley found the speed of the vessel was the biggest influence on underwater noise likely to bother humpbacks. Some big catamarans were very noisy, particularly as their engines needed to constantly manoeuvre to stop drift while whale-watching.
Facts about Migaloo
First sighting:
The all-white whale was first sighted along the eastern coast of Australia in June of 1991. It was subsequently seen every year from 1991 to 2000, except for one year.

Recent sightings:
After an absence of sightings for three years, the whale was sighted this summer on July 10, 2003, off Tweed Heads, on the border between New South Wales and Queensland.

On August 16, Migaloo was involved in a collision with a trimaran near the Australian town of Townsville. According to news reports, the operator of the vessel said that Migaloo surfaced just in front of his boat, lifting it and breaking off its center keel. The whale may have been injured.

Additional reports indicate the whale was sighted again on August 19, seven miles off Palm Island in Queensland. The whale appeared to be swimming normally.

The name “Migaloo”:
After observing the white whale in 1992, Pacific Whale Foundation’s Dr. Paul Forestell contacted a couple of local Aboriginal people — one a tradesman and the other a teacher — asking them whether an albino whale might have any significance in their culture, and whether they could suggest a name. The tradesman spoke with an aunt of his, a revered aboriginal elder, and she suggested the name ‘Migaloo’ – which means “white fellah.”
“The teacher told me that she believed albinos (whether humans, kangaroos, or crocodiles) were considered by Aboriginals to be special beings, perhaps signs or tokens from the spirit world,” recalls Dr. Forestell.
Migaloo’s migratory path:
Migaloo is a part of a population of humpback whales than feed in Antartica during the Austral summer/fall months (November – May). They migrate along the east coast of Australia, to breed in the warm tropical waters near the Great Barrier reef in the Austral winter/spring (June – October). Migaloo is part of the Southern Ocean Group V stock of humpback whales.

Other white humpback whales:
While the classic “Moby Dick” focused on a fictional all-white whale, Migaloo is the only known occurrence of an all-white humpback whale in the 20th century. This is based on records kept by whalers of the tens of thousands of humpback whales killed during the first half of the 20th century, and the observations by whale researchers during the second half of the century. Steven Spielberg is currently producing a movie about an all-white whale.

Value to science:
Because the whale is so visible and easily identified, Pacific Whale Foundation researchers have been able to gather a lot of data about its sightings – without the use of radio tags. This has helped researchers better understand the migratory pathways of humpback whales in the South Pacific.

For example, in 1992, there were nine reliable sightings of Migaloo, which made it possible for Pacific Whale Foundation to plot the whale’s migratory movement along the east Australia coast during the northward migration to the breeding areas, as well as its southward migration at the end of the season to its feeding area.