Thar she blew – a white whale

SHADES OF MOBY DICK: Josh Whitley and his crewman were crayfishing on Ariel Reef at the weekend when they sighted and followed a rare white humpback whale. There are only a handful of known sightings in the world. The whale sighted could be Migaloo, a famous white whale usually seen in Australian waters, which is thought to also be the whale photographed in Cook Strait three years ago. Picture supplied

Gisborne crayfisherman Josh Whitley and his crewmate had the “experience of a lifetime” on Saturday when they spotted a white-coloured humpback whale out at Ariel Reef.

Josh and his crewman, known as Chicken, were fishing for crays at the reef, about 10 nautical miles off the coast, when it happened.

“Chicken and I saw a whale spout near the boat and went to have a closer look.

“Then we saw that one of the three whales was all white in colour, and that got us absolutely buzzing!” he said.

The whale was about six metres in length.

“It was definitely bigger than my boat. At first the whales were pretty spooked but once they got used to the boat and knew we were not going to hurt them, they came closer,” Josh said.

They followed the whales slowly for about 20 minutes.

“At one stage the white one went right underneath the bow of our boat.

“To see that massive white whale cruising along under the water with its pectoral fins out was just awesome.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime happening. I doubt I will ever seen anything like that again,” said Josh.

“Moby Dick (the famous novel written by Herman Melville) was a sperm whale. I enjoyed that story when I was younger. But up until Saturday I had no idea that white humpback whales actually existed.”

Whale biologist and expert Dr Ingrid Visser told The New Zealand Herald that the sighting was significant.

It was likely to be the whale known as Migaloo, a famous white humpback found in Australian waters, she said.

However, it could also be the first sighting of a new white whale.

“Either way, it is an extremely rare find.”

There have been only three documented sightings of white-coloured humpback whales in the world.

“The second recorded white humpback is in the Atlantic Ocean,” said Dr Visser.

“I am 99 percent sure the one Mr Whitley and his crewman saw would not be that whale.

“It is also possible the whale was the offspring of Migaloo.”

The whale was either albino or leucistic, meaning it had white pigmentation, she said.

“The difference between the two is albino animals have pink eyes, while leucistic animals have black eyes.

“In the next week, the whales would have continued north and if they are seen again, it could provide another opportunity to identify the animal.”

Migaloo and the white humpback from the Atlantic have identifying features on their tails.

“The Atlantic whale has black on the underside of the tail whereas Migaloo is all white.”

  • Anyone who sights the white whale should report it to the Orca Research Trust on 0800 733 6722.

Mr Whitley's video is available to view here.

Gisborne crayfisherman Josh Whitley and his crewmate had the “experience of a lifetime” on Saturday when they spotted a white-coloured humpback whale out at Ariel Reef.

Josh and his crewman, known as Chicken, were fishing for crays at the reef, about 10 nautical miles off the coast, when it happened.

“Chicken and I saw a whale spout near the boat and went to have a closer look.

“Then we saw that one of the three whales was all white in colour, and that got us absolutely buzzing!” he said.

The whale was about six metres in length.

“It was definitely bigger than my boat. At first the whales were pretty spooked but once they got used to the boat and knew we were not going to hurt them, they came closer,” Josh said.

They followed the whales slowly for about 20 minutes.

“At one stage the white one went right underneath the bow of our boat.

“To see that massive white whale cruising along under the water with its pectoral fins out was just awesome.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime happening. I doubt I will ever seen anything like that again,” said Josh.

“Moby Dick (the famous novel written by Herman Melville) was a sperm whale. I enjoyed that story when I was younger. But up until Saturday I had no idea that white humpback whales actually existed.”

Whale biologist and expert Dr Ingrid Visser told The New Zealand Herald that the sighting was significant.

It was likely to be the whale known as Migaloo, a famous white humpback found in Australian waters, she said.

However, it could also be the first sighting of a new white whale.

“Either way, it is an extremely rare find.”

There have been only three documented sightings of white-coloured humpback whales in the world.

“The second recorded white humpback is in the Atlantic Ocean,” said Dr Visser.

“I am 99 percent sure the one Mr Whitley and his crewman saw would not be that whale.

“It is also possible the whale was the offspring of Migaloo.”

The whale was either albino or leucistic, meaning it had white pigmentation, she said.

“The difference between the two is albino animals have pink eyes, while leucistic animals have black eyes.

“In the next week, the whales would have continued north and if they are seen again, it could provide another opportunity to identify the animal.”

Migaloo and the white humpback from the Atlantic have identifying features on their tails.

“The Atlantic whale has black on the underside of the tail whereas Migaloo is all white.”

  • Anyone who sights the white whale should report it to the Orca Research Trust on 0800 733 6722.

Mr Whitley's video is available to view here.

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