'Extremely Rare' White Humpback Whale Makes Spectacular Appearance in New Zealand

PHOTO: A white humpback whale with a normal black humpback whale on July 5, 2007 in Cook Strait, New Zealand.New Zealand Department of Conservation
A white humpback whale with a normal black humpback whale on July 5, 2007 in Cook Strait, New Zealand.

An "extremely rare" white humpback whale recently made researchers' jaws drop when it surfaced above Cook Strait waters off New Zealand.

The white whale was photographed on Monday swimming side-by-side with a buddy, a more common black humpback whale, the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) said in a statement today.

"Only four white humpback whales have been reported in the world," said Nadine Bott, the leader of the boat's survey team counting whales passing through Cook Strait.

They survey is assessing humpback whale recovery since commercial whaling ended in 1964 in New Zealand and aims to estimate the size of the humpback population in our waters. Bott said there is a promising indication humpback whale numbers are increasing in our waters.

PHOTO: The white whale’s distinctive dorsal fin New Zealand Department of Conservation
The white whale’s distinctive dorsal fin

The DOC added it believes the spotted white whale is Migaloo, which literally means "white fella" in an aboriginal Australian language.

"Migaloo is the most famous" of white humpback whiles from Australia, Bott explained adding that he "is thought to have fathered two white calves which have been making appearances along Australia's eastern coast. One has been named MJ, short for Migaloo junior."

PHOTO: The white humpback whales head. New Zealand Department of Conservation
The white humpback whale's head.

Researchers said they will do a DNA test from a skin sample they got from the whale to confirm whether the whale is in fact Migaloo.

The analysis will also reveal whether the whale is albino or whether its whiteness is due to color variation.

"This is so unique," said marine mammal scientist Carolos Olavarria, who was with Bott during the sighting. "I have never seen anything like this in New Zealand."