'Once in a lifetime': Migaloo spotted off the North Coast
A BYRON Bay photographer has had a "once in a lifetime encounter" with Migaloo the white whale.
Sean O'Shea posted the incredible photos on his Facebook page last night.
"Welcome to Byron Bay! We spent one glorious hour off Cape Byron today with this much loved and magnificent mammal," he wrote.
"Thanks to Wild Byron Sea Safaris and Glenn Sanders. A big thank you to Glenn who skippered the boat and took us on this unforgettable adventure.
"What added even more to this once in a lifetime encounter with Migaloo was sharing the experience with Mark Franklin from The Oceania Project."
Mr O'Shea said the experience was "life changing" and that the crew wasn't even looking for Migaloo specifically.
"It was a chance in a million, the most breathtaking and moving experince," he wrote.
"So grateful and in awe of what happened today."
Southern Cross University whale researcher Dr Wally Franklin, who first met Migaloo in 1992, says the majestic whale had arrived "right on time".
Dr Franklin's son Mark Franklin, technical director of The Oceania Project, was aboard the Wild Byron whale watching tour boat which spotted Migaloo around midday yesterday more than 10km off the coast of Brunswick Heads.
"We had been looking out for whales but originally we weren't finding any. Then we saw a whale breaching in the distance," Mark said.
"As we got there we couldn't believe it, as we were not expecting to see Migaloo. It was utterly amazing.
"He was tail lobbing - that's when a whale puts its fluke out of the water and splashes it down. He was travelling with other whales, there were two others in his company."
For about an hour the crew watched and took photos as the pod continued towards the Queensland border on its northern migration. Byron Bay photographer Sean O'Shea was on the boat and captured the once-in-a-lifetime encounter.
Dr Franklin said Migaloo usually travels around 4 miles an hour (6.5km/h) and could have reached Queensland waters by yesterday afternoon or passed the state border during the night.
"There are sightings of him almost every year, but we've had no prior reported sightings of Migaloo during this migration. As far as we know this is the first reported sighting of Migaloo this season. Usually we have earlier reports of him coming through the waters of Cook Island or New Zealand earlier in July," Dr Franklin said.
Dr Franklin cautioned the importance of vessels to not approach him any closer than 500m.
There are also strict rules in place to stop helicopters, charter boats and drones from getting too close.
"It's very important to give Migaloo plenty of space and if vessels do approach him they must leave at least 500m and only approach from his left or right flank, never from directly astern or ahead of him as that could interrupt his behaviour and migratory patterns."