Russian sea monster


I got a request to identify this beastie washed up on a beach in Russia—there’s a whole gallery of pictures, if you don’t mind looking at rotting cadavers.

Anyway, this one’s easy. Everyone with kids will know the answer: sing along with Raffi and me…

Baby Beluga in the deep blue sea,
Swim so wild and you swim so free.
Heaven above, and the sea below,
And a little white whale on the go.

Of course, this one isn’t a baby, so when you bring your kids in to show them the rotting mess of a dead whale while singing the song, you’ll have to explain that it is Mommy or Daddy Beluga, and Baby Beluga is all alone in the cold dark sea, with sharks circling him.

(As you might guess, I heard “Baby Beluga” so freaking many times when the kids were young—we had it on a cassette that I think we wore out in the car.)


  1. says

    Thanks for the earworm! We listened to it as kids on an 8-track tape in the van. Now my kids have it on DVD. The more things stay the same, the more they change, or something.

    Interesting skull on that.

  2. Degen says

    For those wondering whatever happened to the Skekses, the Henson company reused the puppets as “Halosians” in the second-season episode of Farscape entitled “Out of their Minds.”

    A fact. Use it as you will.

  3. oldhippie says

    So where does the fur come from, I thought Belugas like other whales lacked fur. Or is it just rotting flesh?

  4. MikeQ says

    “It totally looks like a Skeksis from ‘The Dark Crystal’.
    I wondered what happened to them.”

    I never understood how awful–and uniquely awful–that movie was until me little sister wanted to watch it. So of course I got a copy, remembering from my childhood that the movie was pretty ok, maybe even pretty good. My mom, my brother and combined couldn’t sit through that movie.

    The movie blends bad puppetry and plotting and dialogue and conception in such a way as to make its awfulness really unique.

    Anyhow, that’s happened to many movies I saw as a kid. I’m afraid to watch the transformer’s movie again for fear that it will not be the greatest movie in history, as I remember it.

  5. flame821 says

    Rotting flesh and other organic matter.

    Amazing what the decomposition process can do to a cute thing like a beluga.

    PZ, your blog seems a little fixated on death today…or is it just the freshmen getting on your nerves ;)

  6. MikeQ says

    yeah, that does look like a skeksis, though. Lots of marine creatures look really strange–to me–in their components. that beluga looks menacing. So does the skull of an elephant seal. It looks like the most vicious thing you’ll ever encounter.

  7. Smart_Cookie says

    Gee…before I looked at the pictures, I was imagining grey flesh. If I’m not mistaken, the skin on Belugas is dark grey, and gets lighter-almost white-as they mature.
    But…oops…not much flesh left on that poor critter.

  8. Carlie says

    Heh – my first thought was also “that looks like a Muppet”, but I couldn’t remember which one. We have the first season of the Muppet Show on DVD, and I think there were one or two in there that also looked similar.

  9. says

    Yes, baby belugas are grey. They turn white after a couple of years. So Raffi is wrong, there is no “a little white whale on the go.” At least no white baby belugas.

  10. says

    Dark Crystal haters?! ICK!

    On the other hand, I haven’t seen it since I was 10, so yeah, from my current perspective it might suck. But the memories…

    And Raffi? He totally rocks! Course, I’m really weird.

  11. Anne Nonymous says

    Wow, that’s so gross. Cool.

    What I really like about it is how reptilian the skeleton looks with most of the flesh rotted off. I would never have guessed it was a mammal. Vertebrate anatomy rocks.

  12. says

    I imagine the smell when looking at those pictures. That explains why anyone in frame with the carcass is smoking.

    Years ago, I discovered a dead sea lion (California, I think) on a beach on Vancouver Island. It was not nearly as far gone as the beastie pictured above, but the smell was overpowering (and truly awful!) from 10 meters away.

    The idiotic comments on that page bug me. Have the people suggesting “crocodile” never imagined that skulls don’t have to fit the exterior morphology that precisely?

  13. says

    Definitely a Skexis. That was where my head went immediately, before reading the comments and seeing that I’m not alone in that opinion. Dark Crystal haters, fie.

  14. says

    Yes, it does remind me of the bad guys from The Dark Crystal. Even more annoying were the little forest folk — Ukranians in greenface, as I recall, rather than anything imaginatively different.

  15. garth says

    the bad guys’ crabby assistants were named Garthin. I liked them, especially when they broke into the pod things’ house and slapped everyone around. and fizzgig. he was cool.

  16. says

    I also saw a skexis, thought I would come and comment about it and be all cool for the 80s movie reference but I see a jillion of you beat me to it.

    I love the russians, though. That guy smoking a cigarette looking at it like it’s nothing, run of the mill, humph, whatever. Like it’s making him hungry for some borscht.

  17. Zenmasterw says


    Have no fear about rewatching Transformers: The Movie.
    It still rocks just as hard as it did in the long, long ago.

  18. Jim says

    You won’t have to watch the original Transformers: The Movie, you can watch next summer’s blockbuster: TRANSFORMERS, directed by the man who done blowes stuff up real good, Michael Bay.

    But wait, that’s not the best part. The best part? It’s LIVE ACTION, baby! Live Action.

    The bad news? Optimus Prime is no longer a snub-nose 18-wheeler but rather a more standard tractor/trailer (Supposedly because the “physics” of the transformation and how large they wanted him to be required that he be a larger truck), and at least as currently shown he is a blue truck with flames.

    The good news? Peter Culler has been cast for the voice of Optimus Prime.

  19. says


    [Dark Crystal] blends bad puppetry and plotting and dialogue and conception in such a way as to make its awfulness really unique.

    Anyhow, that’s happened to many movies I saw as a kid. I’m afraid to watch the transformer’s movie again for fear that it will not be the greatest movie in history, as I remember it.

    Just FYI, beer goggles work as well on fondly-remembered childhood movies as they do on regrettable late-night trysts.

    I’d consider a moderate dose of insobriety next time the urge to see Transformers overtakes you. (That’s one reason about half the content on [adult swim] is still running. And for the record I’m an [as] fan.)

  20. WilCo says

    Degen: Funny you should mention that; I just saw that Farscape episode recently and that was the first thing that came to mind.

    TheBrummell: Given the state of decomposition, I wouldn’t guess that this smelled as bad as if it were freshly. It looks like more of the soft tissue is gone, which I think is the most malodorous part to decompose. IANAB(iologist), take it for what you will.

  21. Stogoe says

    Warren, I have to agree about Adult Swim.

    As for Dark Crystal, I never saw it as a child, but when I sat through it in college, I was unimpressed. I actually sat through about half an hour of the making-of documentary before we had to shut it off. The concept art was interesting. The execution? Not so much. I’m scared of the sequel.

    Now a remake of Labyrinth? As long as David Bowie comes back, I think it’d be neat. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t be able to zoom in on his package like the original.

  22. Stogoe says

    I have no news or rumors of Labyrinth sequel/remake, but I’m just saying that ‘done right’, it could be interesting. It could end up a lot like Mirrormask, though. Not a bad thing, of course..

  23. Kseniya says

    “Ukranians in greenface, as I recall”

    Hey! I’m Ukrainian. What’s that about? :-p

    The people in the photos are smoking, not to cover up any smell, but because they are Russian. I think it’s against the law not to smoke. Especially within 500 miles of Vladivostok. Sailors, you know?

  24. MikeM says

    We own that Raffi song on CD. That way, it’ll never wear out.

    I’ll be darned if I can find it, though. Shoot.

  25. says

    Kseniya, I think it’s a case of synergy. The Russian habit of smoking, combined with the old anatomical tradition of covering the cadaver smell with tobacco (traditionally a pipe), is win-win in this case.

    I’m about to take a taxidermy class, and have proposed taking up pipe-smoking for the smell, following in the old tradition, but Mr. Raven is getting all pissy about that idea. Something about tobacco being a carcinogen and all that blah-blah.

  26. Caledonian says

    The Dark Crystal rocks. What’s all this “unimaginative” garbage? Does everything in the movie need to be ripped straight from the mind of HR Giger? The tiny little furry dog with the gigantic mouth should be enough imagination for anyone.

  27. Paula Helm Murray says

    I have a fond place in my memory for Dark Crystal, it was one of many movies in the early 80s that we saw in Kansas City (free) before it was in final form. There were a lot of visual effects that were a film-sketch rather than the actual effect. I enjoyed it and I enjoy seeing it again. It’s not a LOTR or a Harry Potter movie, but the story is compelling enough and and I feel for the characthers.

    It was a much better preview than Conan the Destroyer (one change after the preview was the music in the final act, it was ridiculous, carousel type music in the preview). As we left the theater after that, I thought the guy from the studio was going to have a stroke while he was talking on the phone with California. We (a group invited from the various SF communities/movie critic communities in KC) laughed and MST3K’d all the way through the movie because we thought it was so stupid.

  28. says

    Well, as bad as belugas are supposed to smell when they are alive…

    I hope Transformers turns out to be a good movie… If not, for laughs, I hope it at least has some of the Transformers Kiss Players stuff. Teenaged girls in skimpy clothes that kiss Transformers, and give them special powers? If this stuff ever makes it to the US, Transformers will have circled back aroud and jumped the shark for the third or fourth time.