A rare white orca was spotted in BC waters, about 2,000 kilometres from its usual California “home.”
Captain for Prince of Whales Scott Turton, in Telegraph Cove, was whale watching when he noticed a nearly all-white animal in the mix.
“At first Scott thought it might be T46B1B Tl’uk, a white orca known throughout the Salish Sea, but after getting photos, it was clear it was not,” the Pacific Whale Watch Association said.
He realized a white orca had been seen several times in California and as far south as Tijuana, Mexico. After reaching out to a researcher with the California Killer Whale Project, it was confirmed.
The white orca calf spotted near North Vancouver Island was Frosty (also known as CA216C1).
The researcher, Alisa Schulman-Janiger, added Frosty was travelling with local Bigg’s killer whale families (T060 and T069) members.
“At one point the two California whales branched off on their own and found themselves in very shallow water in Beaver Cove,” PWWA added. “But by 5:00 PM they had left the cove and were seen by Captain Scott on the Prince of Whales boat heading west, just the two of them, away from the area.”
Frosty was first seen as a newborn by Monterey Bay Whale Watch in August 2019, but has never been documented in BC waters.
According to a post from California Killer Whale Project, Frosty’s mom, CA216C, was seen near Alert Bay in July 2014 with her family.
“The distance between that Mexico sighting in late October 2021 to yesterday’s sighting near Telegraph Cove is more than 2,500 km – quite the trip!,” Erin Gless, PWWA executive director, said.
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Before Wednesday Frosty was last seen off California’s Farallon Islands on June 26.
It’s not clear what makes Frosty white, but PWWA say it’s not the first whale that has been seen in this area with a similar condition.
“Tl’uk is a well-documented young whale who unfortunately hasn’t been seen since April 2021. There was also Chimo who was kept at Sealand in the 1970’s. It’s thought these whales’ unusual coloration could be caused by something called Chédiak–Higashi syndrome.”