Extremely rare WHITE sperm whale like the species immortalized in Melville’s novel is spotted off the coast of Jamaica
The real Moby-Dick: extremely rare WHITE sperm whale like the one immortalized in Melville novel spotted off Jamaica
- An extremely rare white sperm whale has been spotted off the coast of Jamaica
- Leo van Toly filmed the rare creature as it rose to the surface of the water
- The last sighting of an albino sperm whale was in 2015 – and before that 2006
- The albino sperm whale Mocha Dick inspired Herman Melville’s Moby Dick
An extremely rare white sperm whale, the kind that inspired the legendary Moby Dick, has been spotted in the waters off Jamaica.
Video footage captured the moment when the ultra-rare, all-white animal — standing about 30 feet long — partially emerged from the depths.
The video, which clearly shows how the animal sprays water from its blowhole, was recorded by Leo van Toly from a Dutch merchant ship off the Caribbean island of Jamaica.
It was later shared by the conservation group SOS Dolphin Foundation, who described the sighting as “special.”
Leo van Toly, who had sailed off the coast of Jamaica on a Dutch merchant ship, recorded a jet of water being visibly blown into the air by a rare white sperm whale through its blowhole
Only the top of the sperm whale could be seen by the shocked witnesses, making it difficult to tell if the white animal was truly albino – as the distinctive pink eyes were not visible
Albino whales are easily identified by their signature pink eyes, but because the video was shot at such a distance and the eyes are not visible, it’s difficult to 100 percent confirm that the sperm whale is albino.
Another explanation could be that some whales are known to have a skin condition called leucism, which causes a partial loss of pigmentation in animals, resulting in the white appearance.
Sightings of albino sperm whales are incredibly rare, with the last recorded previous occasion being in 2015 — and 2006 before that.
An infamous white sperm whale, known as Mocha Dick, lived in the Pacific Ocean until the 1800s.
It was this whale that inspired Herman Melville’s Moby Dick – which was published in 1851.
In the novel, Captain Ahab sees one of his legs bitten off by Moby Dick – causing him to chase the elusive animal, who can shape-shift in the book, around the world.
At one point, the sperm whale sent up a small amount of water after shooting air from its blowhole
Sightings of albino sperm whales are incredibly rare, with the last recorded previous occasion in 2015 – and 2006 before that
And more recently, a white humpback whale called Migaloo has been known to have lived in waters off Australia since 1991.
In general, sperm whales are known to grow to about 60 feet in length and have teeth larger than any other animal.
They are usually found in gray, black, or brown, making sightings of an all-white even more unique.
Sperm whales also have the largest brains of any known animal, allowing them to use different dialects when communicating via clicks.
Expert Hal Whitehead said: the guard that he has never seen a sperm whale that was completely white.
“I’ve seen one with a lot of white on it, usually in spots on and around the belly,” he added.
Sperm whales (stock image) are normally gray, black or brown in color and can grow up to 60 feet in length
How Moby-Dick was inspired by real albino sperm whales
Helman Melville drew on a number of sources for inspiration when writing Moby-Dick – including his own time working on the whaler ‘Acushnet’.
Moby-Dick’s character was based on two real events, the first being the sinking of the Nantucket ship ‘Essex’ in 1820, after a sperm whale rammed her 2,000 miles off the west coast of South America.
The second incident that inspired Melville was the alleged murder of Mocha Dick in the 1930s.
Mocha Dick was an albino sperm whale that lived in the Pacific Ocean until the 19th century – when it was claimed to have been killed off the coast of Mocha, a Chilean island.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
It was reported at the time that Mocha Dick had put about 20 harpoons in his back from previous attempts to kill the animal.
Mocha Dick was also known for attacking ships that got too close, in what some believed at the time was premeditated.
Moby Dick is described in the book as having two prominent white areas around his forehead and hump.
The rest of the animal’s body would be covered in stripes and spots of both white and gray.
The novel, Moby-Dick, is narrated by a character named Ishmael who joins a whaler named the ‘Pequod’.
The book explores the obsessive nature with which the whaler-captain Ahab hunts for Moby Dick, who bit off the captain’s leg during a previous encounter.
In the book, Moby sees Dick and the crew of the Pequod battle for three days before the animal can destroy the ship.
Every character aboard the whaler, except Ishmael, is killed during the encounter.
Some critics believe that Melville’s use of color in describing Moby Dick at the time acts as a critique of slavery in North America.