The mystery of a large, unlabelled Bitcoin address has the cryptocurrency space buzzing with questions about who the “whale” holding over $450 million in Bitcoin might be. 

The “bc1qc” Bitcoin address holds a balance of 12,070 BTC, worth around $455,616,665 at current prices, according to blockchain analytics sites Arkham Intelligence and Blockchair. The address has received tens of millions of dollars worth of Bitcoin in the last several weeks, mostly in large batches. But it might not be a whale at all, according to the various experts who spoke with Decrypt.

A “whale” refers to an investor who hoards large amounts of cryptocurrency. So the idea of a single entity loading up on Bitcoin, at a time when market sentiment is turning bullish, would be an encouraging sign to holders, to say the least.

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It’s no wonder that Crypto Twitter influencers, such as author and investor Jason Williams and Wealth Mastery founder Lark Davis, are pushing this narrative to their collective millions of followers.

“A mystery whale keeps up its daily buying streak, acquiring 539 [Bitcoin] this morning, following the accumulation of 1,178 [BTC]  yesterday,” Williams tweeted two days ago. “Seems like institutional investors are trying to front-run the spot Bitcoin ETF approval,” Davis followed up today, referring to the rumors that an SEC approval for a long-anticipated Bitcoin ETF is imminent.

The chatter also found its way to Reddit, with a Redditor commenting on a since-removed, but highly upvoted r/Bitcoin post: “Mystery new Bitcoin whale buys another 612.5 BTC, acquiring a total of 11,005.82 Bitcoin in just 29 days!”

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But blockchain analysts are raining on the BTC-pumpin’ parade. It’s much more likely that the wallet belongs to an exchange, moving funds into cold storage (i.e. an offline hardware wallet)

“We cannot say with 100% certainty but its on-chain behavior suggests that it is most likely part of cold storage infrastructure for an exchange,” a Chainalysis investigator told Decrypt in an email. That’s partly because the address only shows incoming transactions, with none going out.

Amberdata Director of Research Chris Martin concurred.

“It's not 100% certain that it's an individual or an exchange, but there is a very strong connection with BitMEX,” Martin told Decrypt. “Almost all of the funding sources were BitMEX hot wallets, but the address doesn't follow their normal address schema (having BMEX, or qmex in the address).”

Martin speculated, though, that the transactions are an exchange consolidating into a single wallet but left open the idea that it may be a whale after all. 

“There's an off-chance it could be a large BitMEX whale leaving the platform,” he said. BitMEX did not immediately respond to Decrypt’s request for comment.

Consolidating wallets is not unusual in the cryptocurrency space. Both individuals and companies can have multiple, sometimes hundreds of addresses and consolidating them into a single address makes the management of digital assets more accessible. Even still, accounts moving large sums of Bitcoin will always draw attention.

In April, a wallet created in the early days of Bitcoin moved 400 BTC, around $11 million, after being dormant for 12 years. Another wallet moved 279 BTC, around $8 million at the time, that same month. In June, another wallet moved $1.2 million after 13 years of inactivity.

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So long as blockchains are pseudonymous, and unmarked entities are moving large sums of digital money around, people will continue to speculate about the motives behind the moves.

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