The Icelandic team moves Little Grey, a beluga whale, from a tugboat to a pool. It’s one step toward helping the whale get used to living in open water. (AP)

The Icelandic team moves Little Grey, a beluga whale, from a tugboat to a pool. It’s one step toward helping the whale get used to living in open water. (AP)

The open-water sanctuary location in Iceland, with the artist’s representation of what the facility will look like (SeaLifeTrust)

The open-water sanctuary location in Iceland, with the artist’s representation of what the facility will look like (SeaLifeTrust)

Little Grey and Little White (SeaLifeTrust)

Little Grey and Little White (SeaLifeTrust)

The facility in Iceland is the world’s first open-water whale sanctuary. (SeaLifeTrust)

The facility in Iceland is the world’s first open-water whale sanctuary. (SeaLifeTrust)

A Home for Belugas

Posted: November 1, 2020

It was quite the day for Little White and Little Grey. The two whales poked their noses into the sea for the first time in 10 years!

First, the belugas went on a journey. They started 6,000 miles away at an aquarium in China. Then they headed to the world’s first open-water beluga sanctuary in Iceland.

Of course, people had to move them. How do you move a beluga? It takes a lot of planning, manpower, and some machine power too. Belugas are some of the smallest whale types. But you’d still be hard-pressed to pick one up. These two weigh about 1,980 pounds each! A whale can be transported in a huge tank of water. Or people can stow it in a padded sling and keep it wet and calm.

Little White and Little Grey made their 30-hour trip in specially built tanks. A crane lifted them and placed them on trucks in China. Next a jet carried them to Iceland. Then they moved to other trucks. Those boarded a ferry and took the whales to Keimaey Island to a temporary care facility. All this happened in 2019.

Did you spend time in quarantine this year? Little White and Little Grey did too—but not because of the coronavirus. Their quarantine was spent in a pool at the Whale Sanctuary adjusting to the cool temperatures of the Arctic Sea.

Now the whales are cozying up to a new home—the sanctuary’s ocean pool. The whales will spend about a month getting used to it. Underwater gates allow them to swim into yet another pool. Soon other gates will open and let them pass into the rest of the sanctuary.

What do the belugas think of their new home? Little Grey spends time inspecting a razorbill bird that drops by. Little White quietly takes in her new surroundings. The two are eating well—and a healthy appetite is always a good sign.