Anchorage, Alaska, March 7, 2008—A white killer whale—fin pictured here— was recently spotted in Alaska's Aleutian Islands, sending researchers and their ship's crew scrambling for cameras.
"I had heard about this whale, but we had never been able to find it," said Holly Fearnbach, a research biologist with the National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle who photographed the rarity. "It was quite neat to find it."
The whale was spotted last month while scientists aboard the Oscar Dyson—a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research ship—were conducting an acoustic survey of Pollock, a whitefish, near Steller sea lion haul-out sites.
"This is the first time we came across a white killer whale," agreed John Durban, a research biologist at NOAA's Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.
Fearnbach said the white whale stood out.
"When you first looked at it, it was very white," she said Thursday.
While the whale's saddle area was white, other parts of its body had a subtle yellowish or brownish color, suggesting it was not a true albino, Durban said.
The whale was spotted about two miles (three kilometers) off Kanaga Volcano on February 23. (See map of Alaska.)
It appeared to be a healthy, adult male about 25 to 30 feet (7 to 9 meters) long and weighing as much as 10,000 pounds (4,500 kilograms).
—Mary Pemberton, Associated Press
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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