Cargolux has successfully completed the transport of two former captive whales, Little Grey and Little White, to Iceland following a 6,000mile flight from China.
The SEA LIFE Trust confirmed that Little Grey and Little White arrived yesterday afternoon at Keflavik Airport after having successfully completed the first leg of their landmark journey.
The whales will now continue by truck and ferry to their new home, a large sanctuary in a natural bay on Heimaey, one of the Westman Islands, located off the southern coast of Iceland.
The two belugas were transported in custom-made slings designed to their exact physical requirements, and were then placed in tailored containers.
After a lorry trip from Changfeng Ocean World to Shanghai Pu Dong airport, the whales were loaded onto a specially branded Cargolux freighter.
Little Grey and Little White were monitored by their care teams to ensure they remained safe and comfortable throughout the 11.30-12-hour flight.
A Cargolux engineer and a team of global veterinary experts with experience in transporting marine mammals were also on board, to guarantee the whale’s welfare, whilst ensuring flight safety requirements were upheld.
Andy Bool, Head of SEA LIFE Trust, said: “We’re absolutely delighted Little Grey and Little White have safely touched down in Iceland. This is a complex but inspiring project and we’ve been working with the whales for months helping to prepare them for travelling to their new home.
“We’ll continue to carefully monitor the whales but we’re pleased with their overall progress and welfare checks, which have been taking place throughout the relocation. The co-ordination of this project has been down to so many people and we’re extremely grateful for all their hard work, and are thrilled this epic journey has gone as planned.”
The 747-400ERF freighter plane was welcomed onto the tarmac with a ceremonial water salute from two fire trucks firing a water arc over the plane, in celebration of Iceland’s newest residents’ safe arrival.
Little Grey and Little White will now be transferred on board two lorries from Keflavik Airport before catching a ferry to Heimaey – off the south coast of Iceland. Once they arrive on the island, they will be placed in their dedicated sanctuary quarantine care pool for monitoring and resting after their epic journey. They will then move to their new home in the secluded open-water bay.
Richard Forson, Cargolux President and Chief Executive Officer, added: “We are delighted that Little Grey and Little White enjoyed a seamless journey onboard our Cargolux aircraft. The success of this undertaking is the reflection of the dedication and commitment of teams across all of our organisations who worked tirelessly to make this happen.
“This epic relocation required complex logistical efforts, and we are proud to have been part of this incredible journey. We hope that Little Grey and Little White rapidly adapt to their new home and that their story will serve as a precedent for other cetaceans held in captivity.”
The sheltered bay will be the world’s first open water sanctuary for beluga whales in what is a ground-breaking global marine welfare project. The bay, which measures approximately 32,000 sq m with a depth of up to 10m has been chosen to provide a more natural sub-Arctic environment and wilder habitat.
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 carefully planned by a team of global experts with experience in transporting marine mammals.
The 6,000-mile journey will take around 24 hours to complete – from the time Little Grey and Little White leave Changfeng Ocean World in Shanghai until they arrive at the sanctuary on Heimaey Island.
1. The journey will begin at Changfeng Ocean World in Shanghai. 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
2. Little Grey and Little White will then travel by road, from Changfeng Ocean World to Pu Dong International airport, where a specially chartered Cargolux cargo plane will be waiting on the runway to fly them to Keflavik Airport (the main International airport) in Iceland.
3. Little Grey and Little White will then be transferred on board two lorries from Keflavik Airport before catching a ferry to Heimaey – off the south of Iceland.
4. Once they arrive in Vestmannaeyjar via ferry, two lorries will drive a short distance to the main 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.
5. They will spend a minimum of 40 days in the sanctuary quarantine care pool for monitoring and resting after their epic journey before moving to their new home in the open-water bay in the summer.