A beluga whale, believed to be a former Russian spy, has recently been sighted off the coast of Sweden, according to a dedicated beluga whale tracking organization.
Known locally as Hvaldimir, this remarkable whale first appeared in Norwegian waters in 2019, sporting a harness with clear Russian origins.
Over the course of the past two years, Hvaldimir has gradually made his way southwards, but in recent months, he has noticeably increased his speed, venturing beyond Norwegian waters.
OneWhale, the organization responsible for tracking this unique creature, is puzzled by the sudden change in his behavior. The reason behind his newfound haste remains uncertain.
Hvaldimir’s intriguing story began when he approached Norwegian boats near Ingoya Island four years ago, which lies approximately 415 kilometers (258 miles) from the Russian Northern Fleet’s base in Murmansk.
The whale was discovered adorned with a harness featuring a GoPro camera mount and clips bearing the inscription “Equipment of St Petersburg.”
Norway’s domestic intelligence agency launched an investigation following this discovery.
They later informed the BBC that the whale was likely trained by the Russian army.
Since then, the name Hvaldimir has become synonymous with this enigmatic beluga whale, derived from the Norwegian word for whale, “hval,” and a nod to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Despite the attention, Russia has never officially acknowledged any involvement in training Hvaldimir or any other sea mammals as spies.
In the past, they vehemently denied the existence of such programs. Nevertheless, in 2019, Russian reserve colonel Col Viktor Baranets questioned the logic of using the animal for espionage, sarcastically stating, “If we were using this animal for spying, do you really think we’d attach a mobile phone number with the message ‘Please call this number’?”
Sebastian Strand, a marine biologist affiliated with OneWhale, shared his insights into Hvaldimir’s recent behavioral shift.
Mr. Strand believes that several factors might be influencing the whale’s sudden acceleration. One possibility is heightened hormone levels, which could be driving him to seek a mate.
Alternatively, loneliness may be a contributing factor, as beluga whales are highly social creatures, and Hvaldimir could be in search of companionship with other belugas.
Typically found in the frigid Arctic waters around Greenland, Russia, Alaska, and northern Norway, beluga whales often embark on migratory journeys during the summer months.