Nala is the patron whale of Hervey Bay. The Hervey Bay community adopted Nala in 2005 as part of the Humpback Icon Project, which celebrates the annual migration and campaigns against whaling. Nala is part of the 11,000 strong east Australian humback whale population.
She was first spotted in 1987 and named in 1996, after the character from the Lion King movie, by a group of children aboard the Oceania Project research vessel. The tradition of the Lion King continued, naming her offspring Simba in 1996; Pumba in 1998; Rafiki in 1999; Mufasa in 2002; Timone in 2003 and Zazu in 2006.
By 2010 they had run out of movie names and so it was put to the public to name Nala’s new calf. The Chronicle offered a whale watch trip as first prize. Many a name was proffered. Alan was one of them, Nala spelt backwards, but alas it was a girl. But it was Jennifer McLean’s suggestion of Mirrhi, the Aboriginal name meaning ‘little girl’, which won.
Wally Franklin from the Oceania Project said Aboriginal names could provide inspiration for naming Nala’s calves further down the track when she brought them to Hervey Bay.
It is not the first time an Aboriginal word has been used to name a humpback whale. Migaloo, who is as a "hypo-pigmented" humpback or albino whale, is another famous whale seen on the east coast of Australia. Migaloo is the name Aboriginal community elders from the Hervey Bay area in Queeensland use to describe a White Fella. He is a rather large white fella often being described as ‘bigger than a truck’. I am not sure if that is a pick up truck, semi trailer or a B Double. I would hazard a guess, a B Double.
For more stories on whales, like Phantom and her calf Opera and how they got their names visit the web site of The Oceania Project: http://www.oceania.org.au/whales/whales.html