The waves parted with a flash of white, catching the fisherman’s attention. Was it a shark? No; the friendly, grinning face peering out from the depths washed Joar Hesten’s concerns away. It was a beluga whale, which was a rare sight in these waters. But the object strapped to its body was even rarer. Was that a harness? And there was something on it.
Beluga whales are native to high Arctic waters, so why was one staring expectantly at Norwegian fishermen just off the coast of Ingoya village in 2019? Perhaps it had something to do with the belt strapped around its body. Getting a closer look at the device just raised further questions, though. The happy visitor was genial enough, but was it hiding a secret as dark as the waters it was swimming in?
Three simple words Hesten saw on the belt troubled him: Equipment St. Petersburg. That meant the beluga hailed from Russia, a country known for using creatures like whales and dolphins in warfare. Even if the boat’s visitor was friendly, that wasn’t to say there was something much more dangerous hidden on the belt concealed by the waters.
Or maybe the beluga was more of a passive threat, carrying some kind of hidden camera. There may have been spying eyes peering at Hesten’s vessel, watching him with equal curiosity while he observed the whale. To complicate matters, the creature seemed to be trying to get the crew’s attention, as if it wanted something. Was it looking for help? There was only one way to find out.
You may know the beluga as Hvaldimir, and if you’ve seen any videos of him on social media — they do circulate now and then — you’ll know that his amicable behavior is now famous. He loves people and often looks for them when he’s been alone for too long. Hesten didn’t recognize the whale — after all, he wasn’t famous online at this point — but he did think it was in trouble, possibly caught in some dangling ship straps.