Norway’s famous white whale known as Hvaldimir, believed to have glided into Norwegian waters from Russia last year, startled a diver in Tromsø early this week. Nils-Roar Selnes, who works for Undervannsservice AS, was checking a pipe connection at a depth of 20 meters when the seemingly friendly whale suddenly showed up alongside him.
“I was startled at first, but then I realized who it was,” Selnes told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). So did his colleagues in the boat above him, who could follow the surprise encounter from a security camera attached to Selnes.
“It was absolutely clear that this guy (Hvaldimir) was used to being around people,” Selnes said. The whale hung around while Selnes worked on a valve for a pipe connected to Tromsø’s City Hall, occasionally nudging him and allowing Selnes to pet him.
“I really just wanted to stay there and play with him, but I had to work,” Selnes told NRK, adding that the whale’s skin was “so soft” and the whale seem starved for companionship. He was named “Hvaldimir” after the Norwegian word for whale (hval) and the first name of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Eva Jourdain, a marine biologist who followed the whale when he first showed up outside Hammerfest last spring, said it was good to hear that Hvaldimir had been observed again and seems to be in good shape. She told NRK, however, that the whale (believed to have been trained in Russia before either escaping or being set free) appears to be “socially frustrated, and desperately searching for his flock.” She warned against people having too much contact with him, as he returns to the wild.