The Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA) reported a rare sighting of a white orca in BC waters this week.
According to PWWA, Scott Turton, a captain for Prince of Whales in Telegraph Cove, was on a tour Wednesday watching Bigg’s killer whales 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.
Scott recalled another white orca that had been seen several times in California (and even as far south as off Tijuana, Mexico on October 28, 2021) and reached out to researcher Alisa Schulman-Janiger with the California Killer Whale Project.
Schulman-Janiger confirmed that traveling with members of the local T060 and T069 families were CA216C and her white calf, CA216C1 “Frosty”. At one point the two California whales branched off on their own and found themselves in very shallow water in Beaver Cove, but by 5 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.
“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!,” said Erin Gless, PWWA executive director. Prior to yesterday, the last sighting of Frosty was off California’s Farallon Islands on June 26 of this year.
Naturalists aren’t sure what exactly makes Frosty white, but 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.