Here's a heartwarming story for you this WW, again featuring the playful beluga: Mila the beluga whale guided a free diver back to the surface when she was struck with wicked leg cramps during a competition. In freezing cold water without any breathing equipment, Yang Yun felt paralyzed during a free diving contest at Polar Land in Harbin, China. She and the other participants had to dive to the bottom of the aquarium’s arctic tank and stay there for as long as possible among the beluga whales. Yun began to sink, thinking she was done for, until she felt something pushing her up. It was Mila's nose guiding Yun safely back to the surface. Belugas' facial muscles allow them to smile -- and I'm sure Mila and Yun both were grinning big after this episode.
How much would you pay to get spit on by a beluga whale? If the answer is $200, then head on over to Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium and their new Beluga Encounter. The new 90,000 gallon tank has an area where trainers and participants can walk in the water and allow the whales to swim right up to them. Participants can rub the whales’ skin, scratch their tongues, listen to the whales’ songs, and, yes, get spit on as the beluga whales demonstrate how they hunt for fish. The program is safe for the beluga whales, who are around human trainers every day anyway. Ken Ramirez, the aquarium’s senior vice president for animal collections and training says, “the animals enjoy it, and the people enjoy it.”