25 March 2021, 12:56 | Updated: 25 March 2021, 13:15
By playing classical music through a loud speaker, the ice-breaking ship Moskva was able to guide 2,000 beluga whales to safety.
In 1985, a herd of beluga whales found themselves in a life-threatening predicament: they were trapped by a wall of ice and were at risk of suffocating or starving to death as breathing pools began to shrink.
Facing a race against the clock, a ship called Moskva – the world’s toughest icebreaker at the time – was called in to help the mammals by breaking through the thick ice.
But when the 13,000-tonne vessel reached the whales, they were too frightened by the roar of its engine and deafening propellors to follow it to their freedom.
The ship’s crew members were at a loss for what to do, until someone made a wild suggestion… to play classical music.
Beautiful music soon echoed from the Moskva’s top deck from a loud speaker, and sure enough, the whales began to follow.
Read more: Flautist coaxes whale to the surface (and it almost knocks her over) >
Writing about the incredible feat at the time, The New York Times shared some of the details published by Russian newspaper Izvestia.
“This operation was truly experimental,” the Times wrote.
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“At last someone recalled that dolphins react acutely to music. And so music began to pour off the top deck. Popular, martial, classical.”
The broadsheet continued: “The classical proved most to the taste of the belugas. The herd began to slowly follow the ship.”
Read more: These whales responded to a cello being played, and it’s incredibly beautiful >
In the end, it was estimated that around 2,000 whales managed to escape an untimely death.
The rescue mission later became known as ‘Operation Beluga’, and cost the Soviet government about $80,000 (£58,302).
Beluga whales routinely hunt and hide beneath thick ice, but they must surface every twenty minutes or so to inhale air.
A wonderful marriage of music and nature. We wonder what they were played – ‘Deeply wailing’, perhaps?