An operation to rescue dozens of white whales trapped in ice off Russia's Far Eastern Chukotka Peninsula has been suspended because of complicated weather conditions, an emergency services spokesman said on Monday.
The whales have been trapped in heavy ice in the Sinyavinsky channel off Chukotka for at least two weeks. Ice-holes allow them to breathe easily, but their lives are still in danger since food in the area, separated from clear waters by up to 25 kilometers of ice, is limited.
The Rubin rescue tug headed to the area to release the animals on Friday after hunters working in the Bering Sea reported they saw some 100 whales trapped in ice on December 13.
The rescue tug, which failed to make its way through ice, is heading to the port of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky to reload fuel, Lubomir Mukha said.
“If the weather and ice conditions in the area improve, the operation may continue,” he said.
Experts from the Chukotka Fishery Research Center have said food in the Sinyavinsky channel was enough to keep the whales alive at least until January.
The whales are able to break an ice layer of up to 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) with their heads so as to keep breathing in icebound waters.