Albino Whale 'Gallon of Milk' Spotted off Mexico

An annual census off the Pacific coast turns up a distinctive marine mammal not seen since 2009.

An annual whale census off the Pacific coast of Mexico turned up a welcome sight: the albino whale known as "Gallon of Milk," a female gray whale not seen since 2009.

Mexico's National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) was in the midst of making the animal count when it spotted the distinctive marine mammal and captured this video:

click to play video

Keen observers will notice a small gray calf alongside Gallon of Milk. So it looks like the rare whale has also become a parent in recent times.

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The white stunner's condition, albinism -- a gene mutation that results in a sharp reduction or lack of pigment -- is rarely documented in marine mammals, making her all the more special.

Gallon of Milk was part of a yearly count of migrating gray whales to Mexico's Pacific coast. CONANP said this year's tally showed 2,211 gray whales.

Few animals are as majestic and awe-inspiring as whales. Their sheer size, coupled with their underwater elegance, makes seeing just a hint of one breaking the ocean's surface a life goal for many of us. Among the more well-known of these glorious giants is the musical, acrobatic humpback. "This photo was taken in August off of the island of Vavau in the Kingdom of Tonga," says photographer Karim Iliya, "moments after this juvenile humpback whale took a sharp turn to avoid smashing into me. See more of his story in a

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"The babies are these curious clumsy little creatures that can fill you with so much joy that your heart feels like it will explode from your chest," Iliya said.

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Not every interaction is so calm and peaceful. When you swim with whales, sometimes you get a playful juvenile, but other times you can find yourself in the middle of an all out frenzy. This is what happened to Iliya after jumping into the water, not knowing battle-scarred adult male humpbacks were fighting over the right to mate with the lone female.

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"Four large male humpback whales emerged, two of them broke off and started smashing into each other blowing bubbles, tails whipping around," Iliya said. "They came closer and closer all the while fighting, a 5-meter-long tale whipped near my face, and the thought occurred to me that I would be pulverized between these two school bus sized animals."

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"Looking back on the images that I had taken I see that the whales were looking at me, even as they fought. It is a true testament to the gentleness of these giants that they would take the time and effort to avoid crushing this tiny little creature before them. "

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"The thing that I loved most about photographing humpback whales is the level of interaction that you have with them. They are highly intelligent creatures with distinct personalities and will convey a range of emotions and attitude like curiosity and playfulness, or even annoyance."

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