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“Moby Dick” in the Rhine: How a Beluga Whale Raised Awareness of Water Pollution in West Germany



In the 1960s the Rhine River was known as “the sewer of Europe,” its water unsafe to drink or swim in. In 1966, a stray beluga whale swam up and down the Lower Rhine for several weeks and quickly became a media celebrity. The whale developed dark patches on its white skin and the population became increasingly worried about the whale’s well-being. The whale helped to raise awareness of the water pollution in this heavily industrialized region. In the following decades the Rhine was constantly improved and is today one of the cleanest rivers in Europe.