‘He was called Hvaldimir and he would play in front of crowds at Hammerfest harbour in Norway. One woman dropped her phone and he fetched it for her’
In April 2019, a beluga whale appeared alongside fishing boats off the coast of Norway. He was wearing a harness. A fisherman called Joar Hesten freed him, and saw the harness had stamped on it “equipment of St Petersburg”. The media went crazy, with talk of a “spy whale”, and the creature was named Hvaldimir, a combination of hval, the Norwegian word for whale, and Vladimir, a nod to Russia’s President Putin.
The whale became famous. There were Instagram videos of him playing in Hammerfest harbour in front of crowds. One woman dropped her phone in the water and the whale fetched it for her. He would bring up bones from the depths to show people, almost like little gifts. It became this huge moment on social media: everyone in the country fell in love with the whale. Even the hardcore fishing villages melted for Hvaldimir.