Fishermen from the Scandinavian country spotted a cetacean with a harness prepared to carry a camera last week in the Arctic
Last week some Norwegian fishermen found a beluga whale with a harness designed to carry a camera. The country’s authorities fear that the animal may have escaped from a Russian military installation. In the ties that were removed to the beluga can be read “Team St. Petersburg,” as told by Joergen Ree Wiig, head of the Directorate of Fisheries of Norway.
A sailor spotted the animal on Monday of last week while sailing through the Norwegian Arctic. Last Friday the fisherman Joar Hesten, with the help of Ree Wiig, jumped into the icy water to remove the harness from the beluga. “The army has been very interested in the harness,” said Ree Wiig.
Audun Rikardsen, professor at the Department of Biology and Marine at the Norwegian Arctic University believes that “it is very likely that the Russian Navy in Murmansk is involved.” Russia has important military installations in this port city of the Kola peninsula, in the extreme northwest of Russia.
It is not clear why the mammal was trained, or if it was supposed to be part of some Russian military activity in the region. Rikardsen has consulted with scholars in Russia and Norway who have told him that they do not know about programs or experiments with beluga whales.
The Soviet Union used a base in Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula during the Cold War to train mammals for military purposes, such as the search for mines or other objects and the establishment of explosives. They came to have a dolphin training program. The installation in Crimea was closed after the collapse of the Soviet Union, although anonymous reports shortly after the Russian annexation of Crimea indicated that it had reopened.
The Ministry of Defense of Russia issued a public tender in 2016 to buy five dolphins for a training program. The tender did not explain what tasks the dolphins should perform, but it indicated that they were supposed to have good teeth. The message was withdrawn shortly after its publication.