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Soviet Ship Cracks Wall of Ice to Free Trapped Whales

February 22, 1985|United Press International

MOSCOW — The icebreaker Moscow cut a channel through a wall of ice to free more than 1,000 white whales trapped since late January in a shallow strait between Alaska and northern Siberia, an Isvestia correspondent said today.

Reporter Rafail Bikmukhametov said the icebreaker succeeded on its second attempt to free the huge herd of white whales, also known as beluga whales and polar dolphins.

More than 1,000 of the mammals were cut off from the open sea last month by a wall of ice created by constant easterly winds that howled from Alaska across the strait to the barren Siberian coast. An estimated 40 of the whales have died since becoming trapped.

Helicopters dropped fresh fish to the trapped whales while the icebreaker worked to open a channel for their escape. "Operation Beluga" has cost the Soviet government about $80,000 so far, Bikmukhametov said.

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