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Georgia-Pacific Cold Water Quest

Beluga whale

Beluga whale

(Delphinapterus leucas)

The beluga whale is found in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of the world including Russia, Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway and other northern European countries. It prefers to remain in shallow coastal water, but may move offshore and can dive as deep as 3,000 feet. This whale can hold its breath for 20 to 25 minutes.

The beluga will spend the summer in the cold polar seas and move into warmer, more southern waters during the winter to mate and calve. However, some individuals may remain in the north throughout the winter, living under the ice while maintaining a breathing hole as the sea surface freezes. They maintain the hole by breaking the ice as it forms using the dorsal ridge that runs along their back. Polar bears standing on the ice around the breathing hole prey on belugas by grabbing them as they surface for air.

See Georgia Aquarium's beluga whales in the Georgia-Pacific Cold Water Quest gallery.

Learn about our Beluga & Friends Interaction Program and sign up to swim with whales!

Fun Facts

  • The beluga whale is the only whale with a flexible neck.
  • This whale is a slow swimmer capable of bursts of speed of about 5 to 6 miles per hour. It has the ability to swim backward.
  • The beluga whale is also called the “white whale”. The word “beluga” is derived from a Russian word meaning “white”.
  • It is an extremely social animal, living, hunting and migrating in groups called “pods”.
  • The beluga is the most vocal of the toothed whales and has earned the nickname “sea canary”.
  • Download full fact sheet

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