FEROP (Far East Russia Orca Project) have released pictures and video clips of an all white adult Orca male, believed to be the first all-white adult Orca male ever spotted before!
They caught sight of the whale, which they have named Iceberg, near the Commander Islands off the Kamchatka Peninsula. The researchers have spotted a few white whales in the area, but Iceberg is the only known male to reach maturity. They have estimated that he is approximately 16 years old, which they have ascertained from his fully-grown dorsal fin which is 6ft tall!
The team is unsure as to why Iceberg is all white, as opposed to exhibiting the usual black and white coloring that is synonymous with the Orca or Killer Whale as they are commonly referred to. They believe albinism might be a reason, however until they manage to catch a glimpse of his eye or get closer in general to the magnificent creature, they will not know for sure! Researchers are hoping to come across Iceberg’s pod, which includes 11 other whales, again next summer, until then we will just have to wait for more information about this amazing creature!
Iceberg’s uniqueness is likely to generate a great deal of interest in the FEROP project, which aims to use the insight and understanding gained from their studies to help protect the marine life of the region. Hopefully this interest will help them with their goals. FEROP co-director Erich Hoyt said;
“In many ways, Iceberg is a symbol of all that is pure, wild and extraordinarily exciting about what is out there in the ocean waiting to be discovered [...] The challenge is to keep the ocean healthy so that such surprises are always possible.”
Prior to Iceberg’s discovery, the world’s most famous white Orca was a whale named Chimo who was captured in 1970 and was massively popular at the Sealand of the Pacific aquarium in British Columbia, Canada where she remained until her death in 1972. Even though Chimo was only there for two years, she was one of the reasons why Orcas became Sealand’s main attraction. She died from complications caused by the Chediak-Higashi syndrome – which was the condition that brought about her albinism.
People have always been intrigued by the mysterious and elegant whales that swim in our oceans; they make several appearances in our literature, religious texts and even popular culture. From as far back to the biblical tale of Jonah and the whale, to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and in more recent times the Free Willy Franchise, we have always wanted to know more about these magnificent kings of the ocean, let’s hope FEROP’s project will bring us some new and exciting information!