A group of scientists aboard the NOAA researchvessel Oscar Dyson in the North Pacific spotted a rare white killerwhale in the Aleutian Islands on February 23, among a pod of normallycolored whales.
At the moment of their discovery, thescientists were about two miles off Kanaga Volcano, part of Alaska’sAleutian Islands, where the research ship was conducting an acousticsurvey of pollock near Steller sea lion haulout sites.
Thenearly mythic creature was initially noticed by Holly Fearnbach, aresearch biologist with the National Marine Mammal Laboratory inSeattle who also photographed the seemingly albino whale.
“I had heard about this whale, but we had never been able to find it,” said Fearnbach. “It was quite neat to find it.”
Accordingto John Durban, a research biologist at National Oceanic andAtmospheric Administration’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center inSeattle, the whale, which has a white saddle area while other parts ofits body have pigmentation, is probably not a true albino.
A similarly looking whale was spotted years agoin the Aleutians, much less scientifically documented. However, suchwhales have eluded researchers since. White orcas have previously beenreported in the Aleutians, the Bering Sea and the Russian coast.
The scientists are currently trying to identifyif the whale, which appears to be a healthy, adult male about 25 to 30feet long and weighing upward of 10,000 pounds, has been spottedbefore.