Video: Albino Humpback Whale Off Australia’s East Coast

Since 1991, Australian researchers have been aware of Migaloo, a rare albino whale and the only documented adult albino humpback in existence. Now in his 20s, Migaloo makes yearly appearances along Australia’s East Coast during the humpback migration from Antarctica to the tropical waters off the Great Barrier Reef. His appearance still causes a stir, however. He even has his own website.

According to CNN, Migaloo is currently in Cape Byron, the easternmost point in Australia, where he may spend a few days cruising for a girlfriend. For a look at Migaloo, check out the video. Ahab, be damned.

Record numbers of humpback whales spotted near Antarctica

For many travelers, whale-spotting is a moving, and sometimes life altering, experience. Those massive, yet graceful, creatures are unlike anything else on Earth, and getting the opportunity to see one up close is an experience that shouldn’t be missed. One of the more common species, the humpback whale, have recently been spotted in record numbers off the coast of Antarctica, in a display that has even left scientists speechless.

Humpbacks, like most whales, are migratory in nature, traveling as much as 16,000 miles each year. During the summer months, they’ll typically move into the colder polar regions in search of krill, tiny shrimp like creatures that are their favorite meals. Researchers often travel to those regions as well in hopes of getting the opportunity to study the creatures in their natural habitat.

Over the course of the past two years, scientists have been visiting the Southern Ocean with the hope of spotting humpbacks and observing their behavior. In both May of 2009 and 2010, they recorded record numbers of whales there, at a time when the giant mammals should have been heading for warmer waters. In fact, in one instance, they counted, 306 humpback whales in the Wilhelmina Bay, a small body of water that falls on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula.

While seeing that many whales in one place is indeed a stunning sight, and a fantastic research opportunity, researchers warn that it could mean dire consequences for the ecosystem around Antarctica, which is one of the bellweather locations for climate change. As the region around the Antarctic continent warms up, the sea ice is retreating very quickly. The krill use that sea ice as a nursery for their young, and without it they aren’t shielded from the massive predators that eat them by the ton. That could mean that the whales could potentially decimate the krill population, leaving themselves little to eat in the future.

But for now, it seems that the humpback population is not only healthy, but thriving, and travelers to Antarctica may have unprecedented opportunities to see them up close.

[Photo courtesy Whit Welles via WikiMedia]

Cruise ship hits whale off Alaska

For the third time in the past decade a Princess Cruises luxury ship has struck and killed a whale in the waters off the coast of Alaska. That latest incident occurred last Tuesday evening just south of Juneau, where the ship the Sapphire Princess apparently hit the creature, whose corpse was discovered attached to the hull on Wednesday morning. Last year, the same ship arrived in Vancouver following a routine voyage, with a fin whale stuck to its hull.

This current whale was an adult female humpback that measured more than 43 feet in length. Humpbacks are found in waters all over the world, but in the summer months they tend to feed in colder, polar waters. The species is an endangered one and the giant mammals are protected under U.S. law, with stiff fines levied against those who do them harm. It is unclear at this time whether or not Carnival Corp., the parent company of Princess Cruises, will face any fines for this latest incident. They paid out a settlement of $750,000 for a similar incident that occurred in 2001.

On Friday, investigators were still studying the whale’s carcass to determine the exact cause of death. They have not ruled out the possibility that the beast was already dead when the ship struck it, and that the Sapphire Princess played no role in killing it.

[Photo credit: D. Gordon E. Robertson via WikiMedia Commons]

Win a Seacology Expedition with Trazzler!

Did the latest episode of Travel Talk inspire you to dive with whales? Love to travel and learn about the environment at the same time? Then break out your typewriter, because Trazzler has great opportunity for you!

Trazzler is partnering up with Seacology, an award-winning eco-friendly charity, to offer two contestants a 10-day trip on the South Pacific island of Tonga. The winners will voyage aboard one of the world’s top dive and snorkel boats, the NAI’A – in one of the few locations in the world where humans can swim with humpback whales.

So what do you need to do in order to win this trip of a lifetime? In less than 160 words, share an experience that highlights ‘smart travel’. As travelers, we have the opportunity to do good and go deeper; to volunteer, get embedded in local culture, pursue environmentally friendly modes of travel or lodging, or promote economic growth in developing regions. This is smart travel, and Trazzler wants to hear your smart travel stories.

There’s no official deadline; the contest will be over when the community reaches milestones that are measured by sharing, number of participants, and new facebook / twitter followers. Check out the official contest rules for complete information!

Photo courtesy of Seacology

GadlingTV’s Travel Talk – Behind the Scenes of BBC’s ‘Life’ with Roger Munns!

GadlingTV’s Travel Talk, episode 19 – Click above to watch video after the jump

For Roger Munns, jumping in the ocean with 100 ton whales while they fight for the female is just another day at work; come with us as we go behind the scenes of BBC’s ‘Life’ series. Roger gives us the inside scoop on what it’s like to dive with whales, all while holding his breath and keeping the camera steady.

Click through to check out the interview and see some of the amazing footage he shot while capturing the never-before-seen Humpback Whale Heat Run for BBC’s ‘Life’.

If you have any questions or comments about Travel Talk, you can email us at talk AT gadling DOT com.

Subscribe via iTunes:
[iTunes] Subscribe to the Show directly in iTunes (M4V).
[RSS M4V] Add the Travel Talk feed (M4V) to your RSS aggregator and have it delivered automatically.

Read more about Roger right here!
Check out BBC’s ‘Life’ series – just in time for Father’s Day!
Find out more about Humpback Whales & heat runs.
Want to see who else is behind the cameras? Check out award winning filming/photography company ScubaZoo.

Hosts: Aaron Murphy-Crews
Special Guests: Roger Munns

Produced, Edited, and Directed by: Stephen Greenwood, Aaron Murphy-Crews, Drew Mylrea