It’s a whale of a spy tale.
Fishermen in Norway spotted a white beluga whale wearing a harness lurking near their boats, and marine experts believe the Russian navy could be training them as a mammalian underwater surveillance team, according to a report Monday.
”We were going to put out nets when we saw a whale swimming between the boats,” fisherman Joar Hesten told Norwegian broadcaster NRK, according to the Guardian. ”It came over to us, and as it approached, we saw that it had some sort of harness on it.”
The fisherman said the whale seemed tame and actively sought out their boats and tugged at straps and ropes on the vessels.
The harness, which appeared to be able to secure a camera or a weapon, had “Equipment of St. Petersburg” written inside it.
“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,” said Martin Biuw of the Institute of Marine Research in Norway.
Audun Rikardsen, a professor at the Department of Arctic and Marine Biology at the Arctic University of Norway, said he thinks “it is most likely that the Russian navy in Murmansk” is involved.
Russia’s Northern Fleet is stationed in Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula on the coast of the Barents Sea in the far northwest of Russia.
“We know that in Russia they have had domestic whales in captivity and also that some of these have apparently been released,” he said. “Then they often seek out boats.”
He said there have been no reports of programs or experiments involving beluga whales.
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union’s military trained dolphins at a base on the Crimean peninsula to search for mines and to plant explosives.
But the base closed after the collapse of the USSR.