The Mystery Around the ‘Russian Spy Whale’ Keeps Deepening

Beluga whale.

In a direct challenge to Herman Melville’s white-whale symbolism, a stunning beluga suspected of being a Russian spy practically gave herself up to Norwegian fisherman, whom she eagerly befriended in her (alleged) spy gear. A conspicuous, carefree queen!

In the last week of April, fisherman in the Norwegian village of Inga started to notice the suspicious presence of a hungry, harness-wearing white beluga whale in the water, who was incessantly approaching their boats and tugging on any loose straps hanging from them. After a few days of putting up with her bullshit — which, again, I endorse — one fearless fisherman jumped into the frigid Arctic water to remove the harness and GoPro holder, which was later sourced to St. Petersburg.

Predictably, the Russian navy has denied that the captured whale is a spy, with one colonel announcing in a shockingly honest and objectively cool statement to a Russian broadcaster: “We have military dolphins for combat roles, we don’t cover that up.” Even if the man was lying through his teeth — in 2017, TV Zvezda reported that the Russian navy had revived its Cold War–era program of training seals, bottlenose dolphins, and notably, beluga whales, to be military spies — what an incredible flex.

I was initially left wondering of this radiant whale: What is she thinking? Did she learn nothing from Maria Butina, who allegedly had a habit of bragging about being a spy when she was drunk? Just days after our lady presented herself to locals, the Washington Post reported that she was allowing locals to pet her nose and in general enjoying hanging out with the fisherman — what many perceived as a sign that she was defecting. But, per a former reporter for Norwegian journal Fiskeribladet, the beluga may not have ever been a spy, but instead something much more altruistic: a child therapy animal. (Also, our queen may in fact be a king.)

“I recognized him from a story we had made,” Morten Vikeby, the former reporter, told the journal. “[The whale] was wearing a harness because it was used to dragging boats with children on board. This is the reason why he is so social.”

To Norway, I have one urgent plea: Please protect this beautiful creature at all costs.

This post has been updated to indicate that the whale may not actually be a spy.

The Mystery Around the ‘Russian Spy Whale’ Keeps Deepening