Russian scientists have released footage of what’s believed to be the world’s only all-white adult male orca, which belongs to a small pod known to inhabit waters off Russia’s Commander Islands in the Bering Sea. The orca was named “Iceberg” because of the way its towering white dorsal fin broke the surface of the chilly waters east of the Kamchatka Peninsula.
Researchers with with the Far East Russia Orca Project spotted and photographed Iceberg twice in 2010, but are only now releasing the footage as part of announcement that they’re about to launch another mission in the hope of re-locating the peculiar mammal.
Iceberg, who is believed to be about 16 years old, belongs to a pod, or social unit, of 13 orcas. The pod is one of 61 social units identified in the region by FEROP. Scientists are not sure the orca is a true albino, but hope to find out with closer inspection if they can find his pod.
A news release about Iceberg issued Monday morning — under the headline “White Russian” — generated lots of excitement among marine mammal enthusiasts.
Erich Hoyt, co-director of the FEROP and a research fellow with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, stated on his blog: “In many ways, Iceberg is a symbol of all that is pure, wild and extraordinarily exciting about what is out there in the ocean waiting to be discovered.”
A sampling of comments posted on the group’s Facebook page:
— “That’s so wonderful to see! I hope you can get more sightings of him in the future!”
— “Beautiful, thanks for sharing….”
— “Good luck I hope you are able to find him again!”
Hoyt said via email that he has heard of only a handful of white orcas having been spotted globally, “with Iceberg being the only male and the whitest.”
The researcher concluded his blog post with this passage: “With regard to Iceberg’s pod, we have no genetic data but are hoping to meet them again in summer 2012 and learn more about the phenomenon of white whales, why they occur, what it means and whether Iceberg is a true albino — perhaps we can catch a glimpse of the pink eye — or ‘just’ one of the most beautiful orcas anyone has ever seen.”