Wednesday, August 18, 2010

White whale Migaloo spotted off Cairns

Awesome sight: The Cairns Post photographer Marc McCormack captures Migaloo in waters off Green Island, near Cairns, on Saturday.

From The Cairns Post

RARE, professionally-shot footage of Migaloo at play in Cairns waters will be a boon for the local tourism industry and help protect the famous white whale, a tour operator says.

Migaloo was spotted on Saturday about 2km from Green Island slowly travelling south.
(Position in the Marine GeoGarage)
The famous whale enjoyed clear skies and low winds and dived repeatedly into the blue depths before surfacing every 10 to 15 minutes.

GBR Helicopter Group director Deborah Ross said the footage taken by cinematographer David Farmer and pilot Chris Rose, of Chris Rose Flying Films, would be given to the BBC, which is producing a documentary on Migaloo.
"We’ve made it a professional goal to make sure we get Migaloo recorded so we can help protect him because he is so precious," she said.

"This is the first time Migaloo has been filmed anywhere professionally in the world.
"It’s about Migaloo and it’s all about the fact we were able to get the footage in Cairns on the Great Barrier Reef."

Ms Ross, who has worked in the tourism industry for 28 years, said the day was a career milestone for her. "I cried. I was so happy," she said.

"He was at play in the tropical waters. He was just rolling around having a lovely time."

About 70 Reef Magic Cruises passengers were treated to the rare sight.
Reef Magic Cruises owner Tim North said its whale watching vessel spent about five hours with Migaloo on Saturday.

"It makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up when you’re with him," he said.
Reef Magic worker Jenna Marino was thrilled to see her first whale.
"He was pure snow white," she said.
"People were amazed. They thought they were the luckiest people alive."

Migaloo was first sighted in 1991 and has been seen almost every year since then as the big white whale traveled along the Australian coast during the whale migration season.

Unlike Moby Dick, Migaloo is no killer whale.
One time she was reported to have caused destruction was when Migaloo surfaced just in front of a trimaran near Townsville in Queensland in 2003.
The boat was lifted and broke its centre keel. The concern was that Migaloo had been injured.

Dr Paul Forestell of the Pacific Whale Foundation contacted local Aborigines in 1992, the year after the first sighting of the white humpback, and was told albinos were considered to be special beings, "perhaps signs or tokens from the spirit world."
The name "Migaloo" was suggested which means "white fellah" in the local Aboriginal language.

The Pacific Whale Foundation says Migaloo is part of a population of humpback whales feeding in Antarctica in the southern summer and autumn and migrating along the east coast of Australia in the winter and spring (June to October) to the warmer waters of the Great Barrier Reef.

It's been a case of "spot Migaloo" every year in Australia since the white whale was first sighted in 1991.
Because of the whale's color (or lack of it), Migaloo is easily sighted and tracked by researchers without the use of radio tags.

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