A Beluga whale that experts suspect to be a Russian navy spy has surfaced off the coast of Sweden once more, this time sporting a harness marked ‘St Petersburg equipment’. Residents of Norway were advised to stay away from the sea creature, which had become known as the “Russian spy” whale due to its prior sightings.
Back in 2019, a Beluga whale, suspected to be the same individual, was captured on film engaging in what appeared to be a game of catch with a rugby ball alongside a group of men off the coast of Norway.
Marine biologists have previously expressed certainty that the whale has undergone training, emphasizing that Russia has a history of training Belugas for military purposes. Moscow’s Defence Ministry itself has admitted to using whales for espionage. And the Russian Defence Ministry’s Zvezda TV station revealed a programme experimenting with whales in a bid to kill intruders as well as other military purposes.
Retired Russian colonel Viktor Baranets has dismissed concerns over the resurfacing beluga as “paranoid” and insists the mammal comes from a civilian research institution in St Petersburg.
However, witnesses in Hunnebostrand, Sweden, reported observing the whale exhibiting peculiar movements, swiftly venturing away from its natural habitat.
Sebastian Strand, a marine biologist affiliated with the OneWhale organisation, commented: “We are uncertain why the whale has suddenly accelerated its movement, particularly as it is swiftly departing from its usual environment.”
“It could be hormones driving him to find a mate. Or it could be loneliness as Belugas are a very social species – it could be that he’s searching for other Beluga whales.”
According to Strand, the whale is estimated to be in its early teenage years, around 13 to 14 years old, which is a period characterized by heightened hormonal activity.
However, the nearest population of Belugas resides in the Svalbard archipelago, located in the far north of Norway.
Since the whale’s arrival in Norway in April 2019, it is unlikely to have encountered any other Belugas.
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Marine experts from Norway described the behaviour of the Beluga as “tame” during observations made in April 2019.
Upon its initial arrival in the Arctic region of Norway, marine biologists belonging to the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries took the initiative to detach a man-made harness that was affixed to the Beluga whale.
The harness featured a mount specifically designed for an action camera, and plastic clasps on it bore the inscription ‘Equipment St. Petersburg’.
Beluga whales, which can grow up to 20 feet (six meters) in length and have a lifespan of 40 to 60 years, typically inhabit the frigid waters surrounding Greenland, northern Norway, and Russia.
No official response was ever provided by Moscow regarding the Norwegian speculations regarding the potential involvement of the Beluga whale as a ‘Russian spy’.
The Barents Sea holds significant geopolitical importance as it serves as a region where both Western and Russian submarine activities are closely observed and monitored.
Furthermore, it serves as a crucial access point to the Northern Route, which offers a shorter maritime passage connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
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