SCIENCE

Rare Sighting Of White Whale Inspires Confusion, Awe In Australia

It was as "white as snow."

Whale watchers in waters north of the Gold Coast Seaway in Queensland, Australia, received a spectacular surprise Monday morning when they spotted a large, white humpback whale emerging from the blue waters.

"He was just traveling along as cool as a cucumber, white as snow," one witness told 7 News Queensland.

Experts disagree on whether the fair-skinned cetacean was the famed Migaloo -- an all-white humpback whale that was first spotted in 1991 and, thanks to multiple sightings, has gained a fan base in Australia and on Twitter.

Oskar Peterson, founder of the White Whale Research Centre, told the Australian Associated Press that the whale was too small and white to be Migaloo.

Instead, Peterson thinks the whale is Migaloo Junior, a younger white humpback whale that was first seen swimming around the Great Barrier Reef in 2011. (Despite its name, Junior is not proved to be related to Migaloo.)

Trevor Long, director of marine sciences for Australia's Sea World Research and Rescue Foundation, agrees.

"Although it has a very similar dorsal fin, it's a very clean whale and the last time we saw Migaloo there was some yellowing of his skin," Long told the Golden Coast Bulletin. The white whale spotted Monday also appeared to be 8 or 9 years old, he added, whereas Migaloo is estimated to be about 27 years old.

Wally Franklin, an academic at Southern Cross University who saw Migaloo in 1992, believes the whale is, in fact, the more senior white whale because of distinct knobs along his backbone, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Smithsonian.com reports that there are only four known white humpback whales: Migaloo, Migaloo Junior, Willow and Bahloo (the latter two have distinct black markings).

But no matter which white whale this was, we think Captain Ahab would be happy.

Also on HuffPost:

PHOTO GALLERY
Amazing Sea Creatures
CONVERSATIONS