Last week, fishermen off the coast of Norway were shocked to discover a beluga whale wearing a harness that appeared to be the property of a Russian military facility.
Video footage obtained by ABC News shows the beluga popping in and out of the water, acting extremely social and friendly with the fishermen.
A fisherman jumped into the frigid water to remove a harness from a Beluga whale off the Norwegian coast. The harness appeared to be Russian-made, prompting speculation that the animal may have escaped from a Russian military facility. https://t.co/EgEWM4AolX pic.twitter.com/hT7Wvsl0rm
— ABC News (@ABC) April 29, 2019
Local fisherman Joar Hesten was the first to encounter the whale.
“We were going to put out nets when we saw a whale swimming between the boats,” 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.”
Hesten then contacted Norway’s Directorate of Fisheries. A marine biologist at the directorate, Jorgen Ree Wiig, told CNN, “the whale seemed playful but our instincts said that it was also asking for help to get out of the harness.”
According to Wiig, the harness wrapped around the sweet beluga appeared to be “specially made” and was also equipped with “mounts for GoPro cameras on each side of it.” The harness clips read “Equipment St. Petersburg.”
Marine mammal researcher at Norway’s Institute of Marine Research Martin Biuw agreed with Wiig, saying that the whale’s behavior undoubtedly indicates that it was trained.
“It’s quite clear that the whale is searching out the boat, and that it’s used to being around boats. The whale is coming up with its head above the water, opening its mouth, which suggests that it’s expecting to be fed fish as a reward,” Biuw told CNN.
While the exact purpose for harnessing the whale remains pure speculation, Biuw says that “both Russian and U.S. military have had active marine mammal programs in the past.”
“We know that the Russian military during the Cold War were training belugas to sniff out mines or old torpedoes,” he added.
Thankfully, after several attempts, the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries was successful in freeing the beluga from its harness and the whale swam away.
“It was the best feeling ever,” Wiig said.