Beluga whale in Arctic Norway that had harness lets people pet it
Copenhagen, Denmark – A beluga whale found in Arctic Norway wearing a harness that suggests links to a military facility in Russia is so tame that residents can pet the mammal on its nose.
The white whale frolicking in the frigid harbor of Tufjord, a hamlet near Norway’s northernmost point, has become “a huge attraction” for locals, one resident said Tuesday. The whale is so comfortable with people that it swims to the dock and retrieves plastic rings thrown into the sea.
“The whale is so tame that when you call it, it comes to you,” said Linn Saether, adding the whale also reacts to yells and when humans splash their hands in the water.
She said when she throws out a plastic ring, the Beluga whale brings it back to her as she sits on the dock.
“It is a fantastic experience, but we also see it as a tragedy. We can see that it has been trained to bring back stuff that is thrown at sea,” Saether, 37, told The Associated Press.
The whale was found with a tight harness reading “Equipment St. Petersburg” in English. The hamlet has a dozen permanent residents and less than 100 people in the warmer season.
“The talk in this hamlet is that it could have escaped from a Russian military facility or even have swam from St. Petersburg, Florida, because of the English-language text,” Saether said.
It was not immediately known whether any of the dolphin and whale facilities in St. Petersburg, Florida, were missing a Beluga whale.
On Friday, a fisherman jumped into the frigid Arctic water to remove the harness, which has a mount for a camera, from the whale. It wasn’t clear why the strap was attached to the mammal.
Audun Rikardsen, a professor at the Department of Arctic and Marine Biology at the Arctic University of Norway in Tromsoe, northern Norway, said he believes “it is most likely that Russian Navy in Murmansk” was involved in training the whale.
Russia has major military facilities in and around Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula, in far northwestern Russia close to the Norwegian border.
Russian authorities did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the whale.