A beluga whale with a peculiar harness spotted off of Norway’s northern coast has led to speculation it may be a Russian military asset.
Fishermen spotted the whale last week and soon realized it was wearing “some sort of harness,” fisherman Joar Hesten told Norwegian broadcaster NRK, as quoted by The Guardian. The harness was removed, and the words “Equipment of St. Petersburg” were found printed on it.
Joergen Ree Wiig of the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries told the Associated Press that “people in Norway’s military have shown great interest” in the whale’s harness.
The Guardian reported the whale’s harness “seemed to be for a camera or weapon,” and The Washington Post reported that researchers said it “could have carried weapons or cameras.” The AP paraphrased Wiig as saying the strap had “a mount for an action camera.”
“I wouldn’t say the [whale’s] behavior is normal, even though whales from time to time are curious and friendly,” Martin Biuw, of the Institute of Marine Research in Norway, told the AP. “One of the videos shows the whale bobbing its head out of the water and opening its mouth. This is a clear sign that the animal is trained, as this behavior is usually associated with begging for food from the trainer.”
The Guardian noted that Soviet Russia recruited dolphins for military uses briefly in the 1980s, as did the United States in the 1950s, per the Post. Heck, the U.S. employed a veritable Noah’s Ark of intelligence assets during the Cold War, Smithsonian Magazine pointed out in 2013.
Several outlets pointed to more recent alleged military uses of sea mammals by Russia. That country and others, including the United States, have renewed their focus on the Arctic in recent years as climate change has melted ice and opened new shipping lanes.
Watch video from the fishermen obtained by CBS News and other outlets below:
WATCH: A beluga whale may have escaped from a Russian military facility, Norwegian officials say, after finding the mammal swimming in Arctic Norway with an "Equipment St. Petersburg" harness. Russian military is believed to have trained sea mammals, according to Norwegian media. pic.twitter.com/9CIkH5hfqy
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) April 29, 2019