Beluga whale sisters Little White and Little Grey have arrived in Iceland, RÚV reports. The whales took a long journey from their previous home in Shanghai, China, to their new one: a specially-built open-sea sanctuary located in the Westman Islands. The sanctuary is the first of its kind, and as close to living in the wild as is possible for the animals, which were raised in captivity and until now kept in concrete pools.
Little White and Little Grey left Shanghai at 3.00am on June 19, taking a direct flight to Keflavík on a specially-outfitted plane arranged by company Cargolux. Chief Pilot Brynjar Örn Sveinjónsson said the flight went well. “They were maybe a little bit stressed at first, but then they calmed down and were very calm for the whole trip.” According to a veterinarian, one of the whales managed to sleep deeply throughout the flight. The trip was originally scheduled to take place in April, but was delayed due to bad weather.
The whales were received in Iceland by officials from the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST), and were then driven to Landeyjarhöfn harbour, South Iceland, from which they were transported by ferry to the Westman Islands, their new home. The whales will now undergo a 40-day quarantine in specially-built pools. Once the quarantine is over, they will be transported to an open-sea pen, where they will spend most of their time from now on.
Chinese Ambassador to Iceland Jin Zhijian has stated that Little White and Little Grey are famous in his home country, and has no doubt their residence in the Westman Islands will attract more Chinese tourists to Iceland. “I can imagine there will be more kids who have seen the [whales in China] and miss them a lot and want to visit them here,” he stated.