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Reef Report for Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Rare White Whale Returns to the Great Barrier Reef

The only known albino Humpback Whale in the world has returned to the Great Barrier Reef, having been spotted at the Southern end of the reef this past week.

This male humpback, who in the past few years has acquired the name of Migaloo, a local Aboriginal word for whitefella, makes this winter migration into tropical waters from the Antarctic, his home for the rest of the year. © Great Barrier Reef Enterprises

The reefs around Cairns are a breeding and calving area, with many humpback males, females, and calves being spotted during the months of June through October. While rarely encountered by divers in the water, dive boats heading to and from the Great Barrier Reef commonly spot them.

Divers and snorkellers looking to encounter whales in the water should consider visiting in June and July, when Dwarf Minke Whales visit the reefs north of Cairns. This species will closely approach snorkelers in the water, and a special set of dive trips are offered by several operators, you can find more details about encounters with Dwarf Minke Whales here.

Humpback Whale populations on the East coast of Australia have rebounded from a low of less than 500 during the 1950ís to around 5,000 today, largely due to the halt of commercial whaling.

Migaloo attracts great attention every year he migrates into Queensland waters, and is big draw for whale watchers up and down the coast. His celebrity status has garnered him protection worthy of Hollywood stars; laws prohibit boats approaching closer than 500 Meters, with aircraft kept 2,000 feet away.

This protective envelope did not prevent Migaloo from an accidental collision with a sailboat last year, and while the boat nearly sank, the whale was spotted swimming normally a few days later.

The Cairns area has no whale watching operations, but divers and snorkelers visiting the reef between June and October have a good chance of spotting them in the waters between shore and the reef.

Late News Flash: Migaloo was spotted after the publishing of this news article accompanying a female whale and headed northward towards the Whitsunday Islands, good news!

Learn More:

About Humpback whales and Migaloo.

A map showing Migaloo's migration route.

Migaloo's own website.

(C) DiveTheReef The weekly reef report is written by Joel Groberg of DiveTheReef.com, who compiles them from the many conversations he has with dive staff in the area, as well as† many other local sources in the dive community.

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