May 28th - Rare WHITE whale right outside Nanaimo!
Our tour on the 28th was filled with a ton of excitement! Not only did we get to see two humpback whales, Heather and Raptor, but we also had an amazing surprise right outside Nanaimo! While travelling back to the harbour we found a pod of orca which had a WHITE whale in it!
The cause of the distinct colouration in this calf is still unknown, although a few possible explanations have been suggested, including leucism or Chediak-Higashi syndrome. Leucism causes a loss of pigmentation but it doesn’t affect the eyes, while Chediak-Higashi syndrome is a rare autosomal genetic condition which can result in albinism. Chediak-Higashi syndrome has been observed in the transient orca population in this area before.
In any case, this young killer whale is certainly unique! Young calves are always a little tricky to spot out on the water because of their smaller size and this white little guy blended into the salt spray, making it even harder to spot! Once we confirmed that this was indeed a white orca travelling in this pod we got very excited! To our knowledge it has been 10 years since the last confirmed sighting of a white whale in our waters, so this was an amazing discovery!
We made sure to grab lots of photos for confirmation, and used these to determine who that white whale was. The pod was identified as the T046Bs through dorsal fins and the young white calf was determined to be T046B1B. This whale is easily identified by the intense scarring on its back, as you can see in the photos below.
Although the orcas were very exciting to see, they weren’t the only whales that we saw on our trip! We also got the chance to spend some time with Heather and Raptor, two humpbacks that have been spending time together in the Salish Sea. Heather and Raptor are also easy to ID based on the markings on their flukes.
Enjoy these photos taken by marine naturalist Val Watson from our incredible day at sea! And if you’d like to join a tour, give us a call at 1-250-667-5177 or make a booking on our website anytime!