It sounds like something out of a Cold War spy movie, but it’s apparently real: A whale has been discovered in waters near Norway with tight harnesses on it, which could have been attached by the Russian military.
“There is a lot of secrecy around these military projects, but a Russian researcher I have spoken to says she knows that the Russian defense has such whales in captivity for military training,” Norweigian whale scientist Audun Rikardsen told the Aftenposten newspaper.
“It is most likely that the Russian Navy in Murmansk is involved,” he said.
Russia has major military facilities in and around Murmansk in far northwestern Russia.
Joergen Ree Wiig of the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries said “Equipment St. Petersburg” is written on the harness strap, which features a mount for an action camera.
Rikardsen, a professor at the Department of Arctic and Marine Biology at the Arctic University of Norway in Tromsoeadded, said no scientist would put this type of belt on an animal.
A fisherman jumped into the water last week to remove the harness from the whale.
Russia does not have a history of using whales for military purposes, but the Soviet Union had a full-fledged training program for dolphins.
In fact, dolphins were used by the Soviet Union and the U.S. at the height of the Cold War, having been trained to detect submarines, underwater mines and spot suspicious objects or individuals near harbors and ships, the Guardian reported.
Retired Colonel Viktor Baranets, who observed military dolphin training in the Soviet and post-Soviet eras, said the sea mammals were part of the broader Cold War arms race between the USSR and the United States.
Soviet dolphins also reportedly acted as undersea kamikazes by planting explosives on enemy ships. The program thrived through the 1980s, the Atlantic reported.
As for the beluga whale discovered in Norway last week, it wasn’t immediately clear what the mammal was being trained for or whether it was supposed to be part of any Russian military activity in the region.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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