‘Extremely rare’ white killer whale stuns onlookers off California coast. See Frosty

Capt. Dani Fasser was sitting off the coast of Southern California with a group of whale watchers.

The Catallac, a boat from the whale-watching company Newport Landing, sat about 9 miles from the coast of Newport Beach on Monday, April 30, Jessica Rodriguez, the education and communications manager for Newport Landing and Davey’s Locker Whale Watching, said in an email to McClatchy News.

“(They) were watching a pair of giant fin whales, and all of a sudden, (Fasser) saw puffs in the distance, which were definitely not dolphins,” Rodriguez wrote.

Fasser quickly snatched her binoculars, taking a closer look, Rodriguez told McClatchy News in a phone interview.

The puffs were originating from an orca pod of about five to seven whales feasting on some kind of sea creature.

“(Fasser) started streaming,” Rodriguez said. 

As the boat got closer to the pod, Fasser saw “an iridescent green color under the water,” according to Rodriguez.

For Fasser, this glow could only mean one thing — Frosty, a white killer whale.

“I was like. ‘Oh my gosh,’ it’s happening. It’s finally happening,” Fasser told the Orange County Register of the sighting. 

Frosty, estimated to be almost 5 years old, has only been spotted a handful of times while swimming with its CA216 pod, making sightings of the whale off the California coast “extremely rare,” Rodriguez said.

Frosty possibly has leucism or a syndrome called Chediak-Higashi, Monterey Bay Whale Watch said in October, McClatchy News reported.

Leucism causes white coloration on the skin, according to the National Park Service. Chediak-Higashi is a syndrome that causes reduced pigment in the skin and eyes, experts with the National Organization of Rare Disorders said.

When it was “just a few months old,” Rodriguez said the rare whale was spotted off the coast of Orange County in September 2019.

Ryan Lawler, owner of the whale-watching company Newport Coastal Adventure, was among the lucky few to catch a glimpse of the orca nearly five years ago.

“When Frosty is swimming underwater, he is like this glowing white object,” Lawler told McClatchy News in an April 29 phone interview. “Sometimes you can see him 20 feet below the surface.”

While Lawler refers to Frosty as a “he,” Lawler said it’s not known if Frosty is male or female.

Since the 2019 sighting, Lawler said Frosty has been busy.

“He has ended up as far north as Vancouver Island and Canada,” Lawler said. “And he’s been seen as far south as San Diego, California.”

Almost exactly a year ago, Frosty was spotted off Palos Verdes, according to Rodriguez.

“And from what we know, there’s not too many other white killer whales that have lived beyond 3 or 4 years old,” Rodriguez said, “so him being reaching this age is pretty cool.”

This rare genetic condition “might impact his health,” Lawler said.

“So we’re always concerned if we’re going to get a chance to see him again,” Lawler said. “Every time we get to see him, we’re always hopeful that he’s going to make it and live a long life.”

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