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Rare albino whale 'parades' off Australian coast

By Brian Walker, CNN
June 19, 2014 -- Updated 1433 GMT (2233 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • One of world's only known albino humpbacks is spotted off Australia
  • Nicknamed "Migaloo," the whale's movements are being tracked by researchers
  • Migaloo was first seen in 1991 as a juvenile, experts say
  • This is the third year in a row he's been spotted

(CNN) -- "Thar he blows!" In a scene straight out of Moby Dick, a rare white whale is back and putting on a show for his fans off the eastern coast of Australia this week.

First spotted on Tuesday, the albino humpback has been nicknamed "Migaloo" by researchers who track his movements.

The albino humpback whale nicknamed Migaloo cruises along the eastern coast of Australia near Coffs Harbour with another whale in 2005. On Thursday, June 19, he was spotted swimming along the coast near Sydney on his annual migration. The albino humpback whale nicknamed Migaloo cruises along the eastern coast of Australia near Coffs Harbour with another whale in 2005. On Thursday, June 19, he was spotted swimming along the coast near Sydney on his annual migration.
Albinos of the animal kingdom
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On Thursday he was seen swimming along Sydney's coast on his annual migration. This is the third year in a row he's been spotted.

Albino whales are rare and Migaloo is one of only a small handful of documented all-white humpback adults, according to Oskar Peterson, who runs a website that tracks sightings of white whales around the globe.

"We have photos of a junior Migaloo from a few years ago, but we haven't seen him since so we don't know if he survived the South Ocean," said Peterson.

"But there is a 100% white whale we've seen photographic proof of in Norway, so Migaloo isn't quite as unique as we once thought."

Migaloo was first seen in 1991 when he was a juvenile and researchers believe he is now in his 20s.

He doesn't show up every year, but his journey is part of the humpbacks' annual migration from the Antarctic to their breeding grounds along the Great Barrier Reef.

"The helicopter crews are all out photographing him today," said Oskar Peterson. "He's giving us all quite a parade this year."

Migaloo passed by Cronulla in Sydney's south on Thursday afternoon and would soon be seen by whale watchers at Bondi Beach, Peterson said.

Spotters of the whale are sharing sightings, photos and video at his Twitter account, Migaloo1.

Male humpbacks can travel up to 140 kilometers (87 miles) a day during their migration, according to experts.

Researchers warn fans to steer clear -- at least 500 meters away at all times -- to ensure the whale's survival. Too much noise and chasing can disturb him and cause him to use precious energy he needs for migration.

But whale watchers may be able to enjoy Migaloo for decades. Humpback whales are believed to survive as long as 90 years in the wild.

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