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Alleged Russian Spy Whale Spotted off Sweden’s Coast

The alleged former Russian spy whale, surfaces near the coast of Sweden.
The alleged former Russian spy whale surfaces near the coast of Sweden. Credit: Stan Shebs / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

A beluga whale, believed to be a former spy from Russia, has been spotted near the coast of Sweden, according to an organization that tracks these magnificent creatures.

Locally known as Hvaldimir, this unique whale was initially seen off the coast of Norway in 2019, sporting a harness of Russian origin. Over the years, the whale has gradually made its way south from the far north of Norway.

However, in recent months, it has noticeably picked up its pace and ventured beyond Norwegian waters, leaving the reason for this sudden change in behavior shrouded in mystery.

Appearance of beluga whale

About four years ago, this friendly spy beluga whale approached Norwegian boats near the island of Ingoya. To give you an idea of the distance, the island is approximately 415 kilometers (or 258 miles) from Murmansk, where Russia’s Northern Fleet is stationed.

At that time, observers discovered that the whale was wearing a harness equipped with a mount for a GoPro camera, along with clips marked with the words “Equipment of St. Petersburg.”

Investigation about the whale

Following the discovery, Norway’s domestic intelligence agency initiated an investigation into the matter. The agency later informed that it believed the whale had received training from the Russian army.

In local circles, the whale has been affectionately dubbed Hvaldimir, combining the Norwegian word for whale, “hval,” with reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia has not officially addressed the allegation that Hvaldimir underwent training by the Russian army. The country has previously refuted any claims regarding the existence of programs aimed at training marine animals as spies.

However, in 2019, Russian reserve colonel Col Viktor Baranets made a statement, questioning the logic of attaching a mobile phone number with the message “Please call this number” if the animal was indeed being employed for espionage purposes.

Behavioral changes in the whale

Sebastian Strand, a marine biologist affiliated with OneWhale, shared insights into the recent shifts in the whale’s movements, highlighting a range of possible explanations.

According to Mr. Strand, the precise reason for the whale’s sudden increase in speed remains unknown, particularly as it is now rapidly distancing itself from its natural habitat.

The biologist outlined two potential factors contributing to the whale’s behavioral change. Firstly, he mentioned the possibility of heightened hormone levels, which may drive the whale’s desire to seek a mate.

Secondly, Mr. Strand proposed that the whale’s behavior could stem from feelings of loneliness. Beluga whales are highly sociable creatures, and it is plausible that this individual is searching for companionship with other beluga whales.

Typically, beluga whales inhabit frigid Arctic waters encompassing Greenland, Russia, Alaska, and northern Norway. Some members of this species engage in seasonal migrations during the summer months.

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