Magnificent white humpback whale spotted in the Azores: great shots

Near the islands of Pico and Faial in the Azores, an almost entirely white humpback whale has been sighted. A rare specimen has leucism.

During a whale watching tour in the Azores, in the heart of the Atlantic Ocean, a beautiful and rare white humpback whale was spotted, as well as another specimen of a typical color. The incredible sighting took place on Saturday, April 16, off the coast of the Pico and Faial Islands, two of the nine gems of the Portuguese archipelago known as one of the best, if not the best, cetacean sightings in the world. in their natural habitat. Indeed, about thirty species live in these waters, including resident, seasonal and occasional species, including majestic baleen whales such as blue whales, fin whales and humpback whales. Spring is considered the best time of the year to observe these magnificent animals in the Azores, a resting and transit destination during their annual migration to the cold and fishy waters of the Arctic. However, the white humpback whale was a very pleasant surprise even for those who are accustomed to the sight of the giants of the seas.

White humpback whale spotted in the Azores. Credit: Nini Darius / CWAçores

The first to notice its presence were the lookouts, strategically located towers on the mainland that were once used to hunt sperm whales, the “queen” of the Portuguese archipelago’s species. Today, lookouts are a major cog in the thriving local whale watching industry; Indeed, thanks to huge binoculars, observers scan the ocean and fix the position of the sighted cetaceans, transmitting the coordinates to the boats, which can thus quickly reach them. The video you see at the top of this article was recorded by skipper Ricardo Ventura of CWAzores, a whale watching company founded by two Italians, Dania Tesei and Enrico Villa, and Azorrian Michael Costa.

White humpback whale spotted in the Azores. Credit: Nini Darius / CWAçores

Around 2:45 pm on April 16, Ricardo, who was already at sea with several tourists, was contacted by radio by observers who informed him of the presence of two humpback whales off the coast of Faial. After a sprint, he reached the position of two magnificent cetaceans, confirming the almost completely white color of one of the two. The video shows that the ventral stripe of the caudal fin is partially colored black, the main color of these marine mammals. The white humpback whale suffers from leucism, or incomplete albinism, a genetic disease associated with the absence of the tyrosinase enzyme responsible for the production of melanin, the pigment that determines the color of the epidermis, plumage and coat in animals. It differs from true albinism in that in leucism, the eyes retain their natural color, while in albino animals they are “stained” pink due to the lack of pigment in the iris, which reveals the blood vessels that underlie the blood.

Credit: Ricardo Ventura / CWAçores

According to data collected by experts, the white humpback whale is a male, already seen in 2012 off Svalbard, in Guadeloupe waters in (2015, 2019 and 2020) and again in Norwegian waters. Based on the pictures taken by Ricardo Ventura, the cetacean is in excellent condition and swims vigorously alongside its companion. In wildlife, albinism and leucism are conditions that can be a serious life hazard, both in terms of predation (they are easier to identify) and in terms of sun damage, with a significantly higher risk of burns. and tumors. leather. The white humpback whale spotted in the Azores isn’t the only one to make headlines; in Australia, for example, Migalu, a man in his 40s with albinism, is very famous. All-white killer whales and grumpies have also been seen in the past.

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