Where to spot Migaloo as the white whale turns 30 this year
Australia's favourite albino humpback has been spotted making his annual journey along the Mid North Coast.
The white whale's migration is more significant this season, because this year, Migaloo turns 30.
The adult male whale is a unique find for scientists, a delight for tourists and, for most Aussies, an unofficial national mascot.
The 40-tonne, 15-metre albino humpback whale - believed to have been born in 1989 - typically turns up in New Zealand in late June before cropping up again along either Cape Byron or the Gold Coast in late July.
This year, as Migaloo migrates from the cold Antarctic waters to warmer, tropical temps on the Great Barrier Reef and back again, fans are already on the lookout for the birthday boy.
WHERE TO SEE MIGALOO
The earliest reported sightings of Migaloo this year began in early May when the great white whale made an appearance off the coast of Sydney (according to tweets from May 9).
Similar claims were made when a man captured footage of an albino whale, shared on May 29. While the location of the sighting isn't known, fans were quick to question whether it was Migaloo beginning his annual migration.
With reports the majestic white whale is expected to cruise past the Gold Coast in the next few days, fans are calling these pictures the real deal.
Taken from a plane, these images are believed to show the first official Migaloo sighting of the season. But one Twitter user was quick to comment, "Could it be a whale swimming upside down, showing its tummy?"
To track Migaloo's annual travels, the White Whale Research Centre has established an online system that allows scientists and whale watchers to log their Migaloo sightings. This database, along with annual whale counts, has helped scientists keep regular tabs on the rare whale.
Since record keeping began, Migaloo has been spotted over 50 times, and whale watchers from around the world eagerly anticipate his appearance year after year.
But remember to keep your distance. Due to the amount of attention he receives for his unique appearance, Migaloo is protected under special Queensland and Commonwealth government legislation, prohibiting vessels from approaching closer than 500 metres of the white whale. Any closer and they can cop a $16,500 fine.
MIGALOO'S MILESTONE BIRTHDAY
First spotted in 1991 passing through Byron Bay, Migaloo was thought to be between three and five years old at the time.
Migaloo became an anomaly as the only known white humpback whale in the world. Since then, three others have been spotted - named Bahloo, Willow and Migaloo Jnr.
And despite Migaloo turning 30 this year, Dr Wally Franklin - an adjunct fellow at Southern Cross University and founding director of The Oceania Project - said the white whale still had many birthdays ahead of him.
"This year he is 30 years old, so he is now well and truly fully grown and fully mature. He's mature socially and physically," Dr Franklin said.
"It doesn't appear that he has had any issues with predators and he has an expectation to living as long as 100 years, which is the generally believed life expectancy."
Migaloo is also thought to have sired at least two offspring, but a genetic sample is needed to confirm this.