Scientists have spotted what they believe to the first ever all-white adult orca, or killer whale, off the coast of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula in the north Pacific Ocean. The male, named "Iceberg", was discovered by an international Far East Russia Orca Project (FEROP) near the Commander Islands. "He’s a symbol of all that is pure, wild and extraordinarily exciting about the ocean," said Erich Hoyt, the co-head of FEROP.
By the numbers
Two meters is the size of Iceberg’s dorsal fin, the first visible sign of this unique orca. He lives in a family 'pod' with 12 relatives. His pod is one of 61 identified orca units in the region based on 12 years of research.
"This discovery is spectacular," says Hoyt, also Senior Research Fellow at Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.
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60 seconds with Erich Hoyt
Is this whale albino?
We are currently not sure. We need to check his eyes for a pink pigmentation to be certain.
Is he not prejudiced because of this different coat?
Family bonds are very strong among orcas. There is no evidence that he is an outcast.
Is there a danger his life could be under threat?
The remoteness means he’s away from human contact but recent seismic surveys for oil and gas in the region could disturb orcas in the future. This is something of concern.
You have found your white whale. Did anyone compare you to Ahab from 'Moby Dick'?
I hope not! [laughs] From the time of Ahab, we have come a long way in terms of our understanding of whales.