Researchers have whale of a time
SOUTHERN Cross University researchers had a spectacular start to the annual two-week Cape Byron Whale Research Project as Migaloo, a rare albino humpback whale, trekked past the coast flanked by several other whales and pods of dolphins on Monday.
Migaloo was sighted off the Coffs and Clarence coasts at the weekend, which is when the annual count started. It will continue for 13 days until July 7.
Dan Burns, who is one of the co-ordinators of the project and a PhD student with the Southern Cross University Whale Research Centre, was on the water hoping to collect another sloughed skin sample from Migaloo as he passed Cape Byron.
But, while some of the other humpbacks put on spectacular displays of breaching, Migaloo kept a steady pace of about eight kilometres an hour as he travelled past the Cape and north into Queensland waters, leaving no skin behind.
Sloughed skin samples are collected from the water using a sieve in an area where a whale has just breached.
''Unfortunately we didn't get any of Migaloo's skin samples, but we were able to get photographs of Migaloo's dorsal and get a couple of identifications of the whales he was travelling with,'' Dan said.
''We have got some really good information on how long it takes him to travel, which we are trying to do with all the whales.''
The information collected will be added to a database, which includes photo identification of thousands of whales.