Two beluga whales will be moving from an amusement park in Shanghai to the world’s first open water whale sanctuary in Iceland. The sanctuary is a collaboration between the town of Westman Islands, the charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation, and the SEA LIFE Trust.
The two female belugas, named Little White and Little Grey, will be moved from their current home in Changfeng Ocean World in Shanghai. Their new home will be in Klettsvík bay on Heimaey island, the largest and only populated island of the Westman archipelago. The pair is set to arrive in spring of this year.
See also: Whale Watching and Puffin Tours
Little White and Little Grey are not the first marine mammals to take up residence in Heimaey. From 1998 till 2002 Keiko the Orca, best known for playing the title character in the 1993 film Free Willy, lived in Klettsvík in preparation for a life in the wild.
See also: Whale Watching in Iceland
The company responsible for funding the move is SEA LIFE Trust. The trust is an arm of Merlin Entertainments, one of the biggest entertainments companies in the world. Merlin owns and runs 124 attractions in 25 countries across four continents, including Madame Tussauds, Legoland, the London Eye and SEA LIFE centres.
The sanctuary and accompanying Natural History Museum will be Merlin’s first attraction in Iceland.
The two whales are currently training for the move from Changfeng to Klettsvík. They’ll have to practice their open water swimming and gain weight to cope with the colder climate.
Their journey from China to Iceland spans over 6000-miles! Luckily beluga whales use their echolocation, a biological sonar, not only to locate food but also to communicate with each other. So maybe Little White and Little Grey can chat on the trip.
Those readers who are less marine-biology literate might be curious about beluga whales. For those people, we recommend researching by watching the animated film classic Finding Dory starring Ellen DeGeneres.
Pay close attention to the Bailey; the white whale Dory meets at the Marine Life Institute. Bailey—voiced by Ty Burrell—is a beluga who struggles using his echolocation.
According to their carers, Little White is the shyer of the two whales while Little Grey is more mischievous.
Visitors will be allowed to observe the whales and get to know their personalities for themselves. However, visits will be restricted and monitored to make sure guests don’t disturb the whales as they get used to a more natural habitat.
Little White and Little Grey are twelve years old, and belugas can live for up to 50 years. So, Icelanders and visitors can look forward to watching these two live their lives out of captivity for decades to come.