White Whale Spotted, Caught On Video Near Jamaica

Dutch sailor managed to film a short video
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 30, 2021 6:29 PM CST
White Whale Spotted, Caught On Video Near Jamaica
File photo of a carving of a white whale over the door of the New Bedford Whaling Museum in New Bedford, Mass.   (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, File)

Sperm whales aren’t exactly common—the vulnerable species was hunted almost to extinction between the 1800s and 1980s. White ones are even rarer, with only a few spotted in the last 20 years or so. The number of total sightings—not counting Moby Dick of literature—is vanishingly small over the centuries. That makes the news that one was spotted off of Jamaica even more exciting. Nobody had a leg bitten off, and no whales were hunted. Leo van Toly spotted it from a Dutch merchant shop and captured it on film. You can see video of the snowy marine mammal splashing in the blue sea at the Guardian.

White whales aren’t albino animals but just have very unusual melanin distribution, the Guardian reports. And while Ahab’s nemesis was supernatural and able to appear in more than one place at once, real white sperm whales are actually pretty interesting. They have a language of clicks, complete with different dialects. They’ve got big brains, the biggest among cetaceans, and the biggest teeth. Ivory from those giant choppers is part of why they were hunted so persistently. They were also pursued for an oily substance in their heads, actually a wax, that was used as an industrial lubricant and a lamp fuel. This oil, called spermaceti, is what gave the whales their name. (More uplifting news stories.)

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