The times they are a changing. Instead of the old 1960s refrain of “Save the Whales”, the new refrain these days might be “Militarize the Whales.”
The U.K. based newspaper The Guardian has reported that Norwegian fishermen have discovered a beluga whale behaving strangely and bothering them while they tried to set their nets. The whale was swimming back and forth between the boats and harassing the fishermen while wearing a mysterious harness or straps around its body that could be used to hold a small camera or even a tiny weapon.
Experts in Norway believe that the white beluga whale may have been trained by the Russians to spy or for some sort of military defence purposes, says the newspaper.
The whale was swimming up to various small boats and bothering the fishermen near the village of Inga in Norway by tugging on lines and straps and trying to pull these ropes from the sides of the vessels, preventing the setting of nets.
“The strange behaviour of the whale, which was actively seeking out the vessels…raised suspicions among marine experts that the animal had been given military-grade training by neighbouring Russia,” the newspaper report says.
The whale didn’t seem to fear the fishermen. The harness was removed and an inscription on the harness read: “Equipment of St. Petersburg”.
“If this whale comes from Russia – and there is great reason to believe it – then it is not Russian scientists, but rather the navy that has done this,” the newspaper quotes a Norwegian research scientist as saying.
During the 1980s and the Cold War, Soviet Russia had a program to train dolphins for military purposes because of their “sharp vision, stealth and good memory, making them effective underwater tools for detecting weapons,” says the news report.
The Soviet mammal training program was closed in the 1990s but a recent Russian TV report says that the navy was again training beluga whales, seals and dolphins.
Previously, “dolphins and seals were trained to carry tools for divers and detect torpedoes, mines, and other ammunition sunk to depths of up to 120 metres,” says the newspaper report. Belugas were not used as much because of cold water temperatures.