Ultra Rare Albino Humpback Whale Possibly Spotted and Captured by Photographer

Mother and calf humpback whale.
Mother and calf humpback whale swimming off the coast of Australia. The calf may be albino. | Dylan Golden

A photographer ready to pack up for the day noticed a splash in the distance. When he flew his drone over to see what it was, he saw a type of whale he had never seen before — an all-white one.

Dylan Golden believes he filmed a very rare juvenile albino humpback whale, while scientists have not confirmed it they have called the 19-year-old’s footage “intriguing.”

Golden had been filming and photographing whales for two hours on the morning of June 28 off the coast of New South Wales, Australia when he spotted a mother and calf.

“I was just about to come back in when I saw of splash out at the end of the point,” he tells The Guardian.

Golden immediately recognized that the calf was extremely pale. The teenager has plenty of experience capturing whales and he had never seen one so white before.

“I was shocked. I didn’t know how to react or really believe it was one until I looked back on the footage and saw how white it was,” he says.

“It was really, really cool to see. I’ve just never seen anything like it before.”

Map of Batemans Bay
Golden spotted the white whale in Batemans Bay, some 175 miles south of Sydney.

Albino Whales

White whales are very rare because the albinism gene is recessive and for a calf to be born albino both the mother and father must carry the gene — and even then there is only a 25 percent chance that the calf will display albinism.

With Golden excited about the potentially rare footage, scientists remain skeptical and point out that very young calves can appear white or golden.

“Given the size and the time, I would strongly suggest that it’s a newborn that’s only maybe just two or three days old,” Olaf Meynecke, a marine scientist from Griffith University tells The Guardian.

“It doesn’t make it less exciting, it’s still really exciting to have such a small newborn out there.”

However, Wally Franklin from the Oceania Project tells ABC News Australia that the footage is “absolutely intriguing” and needs more investigation.

“It is very difficult to declare it as an albino whale, but I’d be interested to see more information about it,” says Dr Franklin.

“It’s obviously a very young calf; only three or four metres long.”

Who is Migaloo?

Australia’s east coast already has a famous albino humpback whale by the name of Migaloo.

The famous white whale was first spotted in Byron Bay in 1991 when he was two years old and has been seen from time to time in the intervening years — he was last spotted in 2020.

Migaloo is the only confirmed albino humpback whale in the world.

“As far as we know, [Migaloo] is one in 40,000. That makes the occurrence of albinos extremely rare,” adds Dr. Franklin.

Photographers and drone operators may want to keep their eyes peeled on the Australian east coast.

More of Golden’s work can be found on his Instagram and website.

Image credits: Feature photos by Dylan Golden.