2010-01-27

Amazing underwater photos show beluga whales meeting divers

They don't get visitors in these parts that often.

That's because these beluga whales live under three feet of ice in the freezing waters of northern Russia's White Sea.

But when some underwater photographers arrived, they certainly weren’t shy - as these stunning images show. The whales are not endangered but under threat from pollution and loss of habitat.

They are thriving, however, at this whale sanctuary, where a natural bay under the ice provides a haven from the strong currents of the wider ocean.

The 'natural farm' acts as a nursery for breeding whales, as well as acting as a rehabilitation centre for former performing animals before they are set into the wild.

The whale sanctuary was designed and built by marine biologists from St Petersburg University.

Occasionally, guests at the local Arctic Circle Dive Centre can swim with the friendly giants, and get close enough to touch.


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Up close: A beluga whale, Delphinapterus leucas, eyes a diver a few feet away as it swims under ice at the Arctic circle Dive Center in the White Sea, Karelia, northern Russia

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Close encounter: A scuba diver braves temperatures of -10C to approach the whale

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Open wide: The whale tries to eat the camera, unsure of what it is

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Safe: The animals in the natural farm are a mix of wild animals and former performing animals, who are allowed to rehabilitate in the safe environment before being released into the ocean

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