There’s a new development in what is clearly the most important story of the week.
The beluga whale that approached a Norwegian fishing boat wearing a harness that read “Equipment of St. Petersburg” on it has apparently defected. The Washington Post reported Thursday that the whale — who has thus far been tight-lipped about his name and employer — is now refusing to leave the Norwegian port city of Hammerfest.
The whale has apparently moved only 25 miles over the past week and seems to love human attention, letting residents of the Norwegian town pet it. Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries official Jorgen Ree Wiig told the Post this week that the whale’s behavior was “strange,” as they don’t normally befriend humans.
It is still unclear why the whale was wearing the harness; an investigation is currently underway, though details have not been offered.
The harness had a camera mount attached to it, leading some to speculate that the whale was a Russian spy. This reporter thinks the answer might be more mundane: research. Perhaps the whale had a camera to capture the behavior of beluga whales, or to get footage of marine wildlife.
The reason “Russian spy” is a possibility is because, during the Cold War, the Soviet Union used dolphins for military purposes. The animals were trained to detect underwater mines and possibly plant explosives. In 2000, a number of these trained dolphins were sold to Iran. In addition to the dolphins, one beluga whale — also trained — was sold to Iran. The BBC reported at the time that the animals had been trained “to attack enemy frogmen with harpoons attached to their backs, or to drag them to the surface to be taken into captivity.”
Several years ago, the Russian Defense Ministry — which now denies it has any programs involving dolphins or beluga whales — sought to purchase five dolphins for training purposes. At the time, the purpose of the purchase was not explained, and the ad was quickly removed.
As the Post reported, remnants of the Russian military are commonly found in the part of Europe where the beluga whale appeared:
In this part of Europe, nobody would be surprised if the latest Norwegian discovery did indeed turn out to be the fallout of a military experiment gone wrong. Since the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea, there have been behind creepy reminders of the Kremlin’s massive military apparatus lurking on Europe’s eastern outskirts: mystery submarines; unidentified jets, including one that almost crashed with a passenger plane; and strange troop movements.
Norwegians are now considering what they should do with the beluga whale. Wiig suggested to the Post that one option they are mulling would be to transfer the animal to a sanctuary in Iceland. Wiig said the transfer could help “the survival of the whale.”
As The Daily Wire previously reported, the U.S. military has also used dolphins. The animals are used to rescue lost swimmers, but are also used to locate underwater mines, retrieve objects, and “gather intelligence for military divers,” according to the Post.