A mysterious beluga spy whale, nicknamed Hvaldimir, has been seen again after disappearing for several months from the Norwegian coast.
The whale, which has a distinctive harness stamped with the words ‘Equipment St Petersburg’, had led marine biologists to believe it had been trained by the Russian navy as a spy.
Now Hvaldimir has been spotted off the coast of Sweden, which has caused even more concern. She may be looking for a mate or simply for other beluga whales.
In any case, its sudden departure from its natural environment has left marine biologists with many questions.
The whale is much loved in Norway and many claim its protection to ensure its welfare.
“Spy whale” : The return of Hvaldimir
It took an online poll with 25,000 participants to decide what to call it. “Hvaldimir”, a fusion of “hval”, whale in Norwegian, and “Vladimir”, first name of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A white beluga whale, discovered in April 2019 in the waters of the Arctic Sea north of Norway.
A cetacean known for its sociability, but showing too much of it by approaching fishermen’s vessels.
“Spy whale”: The theory about the “Russian spy”
When the whale was first seen in the Norwegian Arctic, experts removed a human-made harness. The harness had a holder suitable for an action camera and the words ‘Equipment St Petersburg’ printed on it.
This led to speculation about its alleged association with Russia and whether it could be trained by the Russian navy.
However, Moscow never issued any official reaction to the Norwegian speculation that she might be a ‘Russian spy’.
“Spy whale”: Strange shifts
The beluga, originally spotted in 2019 in a military-looking harness in Norway, has been spotted again off the coast of Sweden. After spending more than three years moving along the upper half of the Norwegian coast, the whale has suddenly accelerated in recent months to cover the second half and move into Sweden. The arrival of the beluga in Sweden has caused concern among researchers, considering that it has moved rapidly away from its natural environment.
“Spy whale” : Concerns about the health of the whale
Sebastian Strand, a marine biologist from the OneWhale organisation, said that the whale’s health seemed to be very good in recent years and that it had sought wild fish in Norway’s salmon farms.
However, experts are concerned about its ability to find food in Sweden and have already observed some weight loss.
This has led to a growing interest in the whale’s health, considering that beluga whales can reach a size of about six metres and live between 40 and 60 years.
“Spy whale”: The motivation behind the whale’s acceleration
The reason why the whale accelerated quickly is still unclear. Experts have put forward the hypothesis that it could be due to hormones, as the beluga is at an age when its hormones are very high and it could be looking for a mate.
Alternatively, it could be loneliness, as belugas are a very sociable species, it could be that she is looking for other beluga whales.
Either way, concern increases as the closest beluga population is in the Svalbard archipelago, which lies halfway between the northern coast of Norway and the North Pole.