Whale I never, Cargolux: Shifting to the dock of a bay for a pair of little belugas

07 / 01 / 2019

  • Follow the plane in the Spring by using the hashtags: #WhaleHelloPlane #BelugaFlight

Cargolux will sponsor a B747 freighter flight to help relocate two beluga whales, Little Grey and Little White, 6,000 miles from China to Iceland in the spring of 2019.

The complex journey will see the whales move from Changfeng Ocean World in Shanghai via land, air and sea to a large sanctuary in the natural bay at Heimaey, one of the Westman Islands, located off the southern coast of Iceland.

The secluded bay will be the world’s first open water sanctuary for beluga whales in what is a global marine welfare project.

The bay, which measures up to 32,000 sq m with a depth of up to 10 m, has been chosen to provide a more natural sub-Arctic environment and wild habitat for the whales.

Andy Bool, head of Sea Life Trust, said: “This is a complex but truly inspiring project to be working on and we are extremely grateful to Cargolux for their generosity in becoming our official transport partner and helping us move Little White and Little Grey to their new, more natural home.

“Cargolux has years of experience working on many of the most logistically intricate projects and their teams have been working with our animal care team, veterinarians and marine experts to ensure we provide the very best journey for Little Grey and Little White.”

Bool continued: “We have also been working with Little Grey and Little White for months preparing them for the journey which includes specialist equipment and bespoke stretchers as well as a whole host of leading animal experts who will work around-the-clock as the whales make the journey to their new home.”

Richard Forson, Cargolux president and chief executive, added: “Cargolux is honoured to have been entrusted with two such incredible whales.

“This is a ground-breaking project and one which our animal transport experts are proud to be part of. We are meticulously preparing for the move this spring to ensure a seamless journey for Little Grey and Little White.”

How will Little Grey and Little White travel from China to Iceland?

The complex logistical challenge of transporting two beluga whales by air, land and sea is being planned by a team of global experts with experience in transporting marine mammals.

The 6,000-miles journey will take around 24 hours to complete - from leaving Changfeng Ocean World to arriving at the Heimaey Island sanctuary.

Each beluga will be individually lifted onto specially designed stretchers measured to their physical requirements and carefully placed into specially built transportation boxes before they are lifted out of the aquarium by crane and placed carefully into two lorries.

Little Grey and Little White will then travel by road, from Changfeng Ocean World to Pu Dong International airport, where a specially chartered cargo plane will be waiting on the runway to fly them to Keflavik Airport in Iceland

Following the flight, Little Grey and Little White will be transferred on to two individual lorries on a two hour drive from the airport to the ferry port and then transported by ferry from the airport to Heimaey, a crossing that takes around 30 minutes

Once the ferry has docked on Heimaey Island, the lorries will drive a short distance to the town of Vestmannaeyjar where Little Grey and Little White will be transferred to the beluga sanctuary landside facility and placed into a special care pool so they can be assessed following their journey.

Created in partnership with Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), the Sea Life Trust Beluga Whale Sanctuary is one of the biggest developments in captive whale and dolphin care and protection in decades and the first of its kind to be created for cetaceans.

Cathy Williamson, WDC policy manager, concluded: “Whales and dolphins are highly intelligent creatures and are not suited to being held in a small pool performing tricks. It is hoped that this project will help to encourage the rehabilitation of more captive whales into a more natural environment in the future, and one day bring an end to the use of whales and dolphins for human entertainment.

"We are hugely grateful to Cargolux for helping to make this a reality.”

Follow the plane and where it’s spotted with the hashtags: #WhaleHelloPlane #BelugaFlight