Norwegian fishermen discovered a beluga whale wearing a harness off the country’s northern coast last week. The fishermen were fascinated with how tame it was, but there might be a good reason that it was comfortable around humans. Scientists from Norway’s Institute of Marine Research suspect the whale and its harness may be part of an operation cooked up by the Russian military.
The scientists tracked down the whale near the town of Ingoy and attempted to remove its harness. Just as the fishermen had reported, the harness looked way too tight, according to Norwegian news outlet NRK.
The white whale was enticed with fishy snacks but proved evasive at every turn, forcing them to get in the water to remove it. When the scientists finally got the harness off they saw that the inside read, “Equipment of St. Petersburg.”
“I have been in contact with some Russian researchers and they can confirm that there is nothing they are doing. They tell me that most likely is the Russian Navy in Murmansk,” Audun Rikardsen, professor at the Norwegian Arctic University in Tromsø, told Norwegian news site VG.
Curiously, the harness also had an attachment that might be able to fit a GoPro camera, according to VG. No camera was discovered.
There’s a long history of the Russian military using animals for experiments. And as recently as 2017, the Russian Defence Ministry’s own TV station, Zvezda, reported that dolphins, seals, and white whales were all being trained for military applications.
As the Guardian points out, these animals are trained to do everything from carrying equipment for divers to actually guarding military bases - and not just for Russia. The US military uses dolphins to hunt for underwater mines under the US Navy Marine Mammal Program and they’re also quite helpful for finding missing persons. According to the most sensationalistic reports, some of the animals trained by the Russian military are even taught to kill potential enemies.
But killer aquatic creatures are still the realm of science fiction, at least for now. There’s a campy 1973 movie called Day of the Dolphin about a dolphin that’s trained to assassinate the President of the United States. And it’s every bit as goofy as you’d imagine.
Featured image: Screenshot: VG