A beluga whale wearing a tight harness that appears to be Russian was spotted by Norway fishermen on Friday near the small fishing village of Inga. Officials are concerned the animal may have escaped from a Russian military facility.
According to the Hastings Tribune, Joergen Ree Wiig of the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries, says “Equipment St. Petersburg” was written on the harness strap, which included a mount for an action camera. Joar Hesten, a fisherman helped by Ree Wiig, jumped into the frigid water to remove the harness.
“We were going to put out nets when we saw a whale swimming between the boats,” fisherman Joar Hesten told Norwegian broadcaster NRK. “It came over to us, and as it approached, we saw that it had some sort of harness on it…”
“The strange behavior of the whale, which was actively seeking out the vessels and trying to pull straps and ropes from the sides of the boats, as well as the fact it was wearing a tight harness which seemed to be for a camera or weapon, raised suspicions among marine experts that the animal had been given military-grade training by neighbouring Russia. Inside the harness, which has now been removed from the whale, were the words “Equipment of St. Petersburg”.
Officials at the Arctic University of Norway think the Russian Navy in Murmansk might be involved, but so far there have not been any reports of experiments or programs using beluga whales. Still why was it wearing a harness? And even stranger, reports state the whale is tame and came up to the fishermen looking for food.
“This is a tame animal that is used to get food served so that is why it has made contact with the fishermen. The question is now whether it can survive by finding food by itself. We have seen cases where other whales have been in Russian captivity doing fine,” stated scientists from the university.
When the whale first approached the fishing boat, he began to rub himself against the hull. In 2017, the Russian navy had been training beluga whales, seals and bottlenose dolphins for military uses in detecting weapons. Vladimir Putin has since reopened three Soviet military bases along the Arctic.
(Photos screenshots via Jorgen Ree Wiig and CBS News)
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