Posted by: nancycurteman | May 3, 2012

Vladivostok’s Three Whales Monument

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A wood sculpture in the city of Vladivostok, Russia commemorates the collaboration between Americans and Russians in rescuing Pacific Gray Whales caught in the polar ice. This monument speaks of an event that brought two countries together. It is impressive and worth seeing. Here is the story behind the monument.

In the summer of 1988 winter came early to the Arctic Ocean. Thick pack-ice spread from the shore into the sea. Most California Gray Whales sensed the early change and swam south to pass the winter in warmer waters. Three whales, including a baby, failed to note the weather change. In the increasing cold they lost their sense of direction and instead of swimming to the safety of the open water, they moved into the shallow water of an Alaskan bay. Soon a shelf of ice blocked the mouth of the bay preventing the whales from swimming out to sea. Then the bay’s surface froze trapping the whales beneath. The whales kept ramming their noses against the surface ice in a frantic effort to reach the air they needed to breathe. Finally they forced their heads through a crack in the ice.

An Inuit hunter discovered the whales’ plight. The word spread across America. Eskimo whalers, the National Guard, the oil industry, environmentalists and Federal and state officials, tried to facilitate freeing the California gray whales from the ice pack. A bulldozer and a torpedo couldn’t break the ice.

Finally, a huge Russian ice-breaker roared to the rescue. All night the ice-breaker battered the ice. In the morning, the two adult whales followed the great machine through the cleared path to the open sea. Sadly, the calf had not survived the ordeal.

If you visit Vladivostok, don’t miss the Three Whales Monument.

More Travel Tips:

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The Spasskaya Tower: A Russian Treasure


  1. Now that’s cool. 🙂


  2. Touching story, I don’t even remember seeing that in the news back then, though news didn’t spread the way they do now, with the internet. If only we were that kind with our fellow humans and animals ALL the time…


  3. This is a very touching story told to me by a Russian. Lucky that a Russian ice breaker was near by. When I visited Vladivostok, Russia, it appeared that Vladivostok was run down, buildings, streets, public places, museums were in need of repair.


    • I think the Russians are still recovering from the devastation of life under communism.


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