100+ Whales Trapped in Icy Waters

December 15, 2011; 7:01 AM ET
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Satellite image of the section of the Bering Sea, where more than 100 Beluga whales are trapped, courtesy of Google Maps.

More than 100 Beluga whales are trapped in ice in the frigid waters between Russia and Alaska.

Off the far-northeastern shore of Russia, near the Chukotka region, the whales are stuck primarily in two ice holes in the Sinyavinsky Straight.

AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Jim Andrews said that the area surrounding the Bering Straight, just northeast of where the whales are, is a "harsh climate." It is notorious for severe periodic wind and freezing temperatures. He said it is not uncommon for ice to form with holes in it.

"Sea ice does not form in nice, smooth predictable patterns," he said. "It can form with gaps."

This might explain how the whales got trapped.

"The sea ice is probably a little ahead of schedule [this year]," Andrews said.

For now, the whales can breathe, but there is little food, and their chances of swimming to water are small due to increasing ice, according to CNN.

Temperatures have actually been "warmer" than usual in towns and communities along the Bering Sea, averaging in the upper 20s over the past few days. Andrews said temperatures are around 8 to 14 degrees.

Whales getting trapped in Arctic waters is not uncommon, but it is rare that humans are aware of it. The last time Beluga whales were rescued nearing the Bering Straight was in 1986, CNN reported.

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