A rare white whale was spotted off the coast of Southern California earlier this week. The rare white orca named “Frosty” was spotted traveling with the CA216 pod of orcas, also known as killer whales.
The initial sighting came from captain Kevin Nguyen of the Long Beach-based whale-watching tour Harbor Breeze Cruises on Sunday, April 23rd. Nguyen spotted Frosty while returning from Catalina Island, with a group of children on a field trip, as reported by SFGATE.
When word got out, other local whale-watching guides, including Delaney Trowbridge, a captain with Newport Coastal Adventure, sprang into action.
“Twenty awesome people dropped everything and rushed down to our boats just for the chance at seeing these elusive Southern California visitors,” Trowbridge said in a Facebook post. “While we had some “orca veterans” on board, it was nearly everyone’s first time getting to see a white killer whale – a once in a lifetime sighting. I’m so glad to have shared such an incredible experience with many passionate and excited whale people!”
Alisa Schulman-Janiger with the California Killer Whale Project told SFGATE that she saw Frosty for the first time in September 2019 near Catalina Island. Frosty has been seen as far north as Alert Bay, British Columbia, and as far south as Ensenada, Mexico.
“They go wherever they want. They could be following prey. They link up with relatives. They go to old hangouts. But we can’t say where they’ll go.”
Frosty’s unusual coloring could be a sign of a genetic disorder known as Chédiak-Higashi syndrome, according to Schulman-Janiger. This typically causes whales to have a weakened immune system, sensitivity to sunlight, and a shortened life span. There’s no way to know for certain without doing genetic testing, which is understandably difficult on such an elusive orca.