Two years ago, researchers Erich Hoyt and Alexander M. Burdin discovered Iceberg, the first all-white orca ever seen in the wild. And like the tour de force that was Free Willy, Iceberg immediately became a media sensation.
Now Hoyt and his team have found their next superstar, another all-white orca. On a foggy day earlier this month, the team was sailing between the Russian islands of Onekotan and Paramushir as part of humpback whale expedition, when they spotted a white creature in the water.
“Suddenly a group of orcas approached us, and right next to the boat, a white orca surfaced,” Hoyt recounted on Facebook. “It was not the famous Iceberg, but a small white orca, likely a juvenile.”
Hoyt and co. were able to grab some fleeting footage of the majestic, rare mammal as it swam past their boat and disappeared into the fog.
“We soon lost the whale in the fog,” says Hoyt. “But the image was fixed in our mind.”
The new unnamed whale is now the fourth ivory whale Hoyt has discovered in over seven years of research.
“We have seen one female we call Mama Tanya; a calf; Iceberg the mature male; and now this juvenile,” Hoyt told The Dodo. “Four white orcas in all over the past seven to eight years.”
Some scientists believe the all-white colouring is a sign of albinism, a disorder characterized by the absence of pigment in the skin, but this theory has not yet been proven.
As for a name for the new whale? We suggest White Russian.