Liverpool's beluga to become a television star

Barb McKenna
Published on January 27, 2016

A documentary on CBC this week will make Luke, Liverpool's beluga whale, a star


LIVERPOOL - Liverpool’s former baby beluga whale, Luke, will be a star in a documentary this week on The Nature of Things.

 Luke was already a star when he showed up in Liverpool Harbor last summer, spending about three months cavorting among the buoys and becoming a major tourist attraction.

 At the same time Luke was in Liverpool, a film crew was working on a documentary on the endangered St. Lawrence beluga population. They heard about Liverpool’s beluga, and headed down to find him.

 “He’s a big time star,” says Suzanne Chisholm, producer and co-director of the documentary, Call of the Baby Beluga, which is scheduled to air on CBC’s The Nature of Things tomorrow.

 She says she and her team began working on a documentary on the endangered species after a baby beluga washed up on a gravel beach along the St. Lawrence River.

 The documentary follows the endangered St. Lawrence community of beluga whales, who appeared in the river after the ice age glaciers retreated.

 “The film chronicles what happened when humans learned about the intricate social lives and customs of these whales and started to use their new knowledge and empathy to help them,” she says.

 While the team was working in the St. Lawrence, they learned there was a lone beluga in Liverpool.

 She says they had to come to see him, and capture footage.

 “It was amazing from our point of view,” she says. “There were so many people there just waiting for a glimpse to see him.”

 At the time, it wasn’t known if Luke was among the endangered species from the St. Lawrence. But the filmmakers wanted to know.

 “We arrived in Liverpool just in time to accompany the team from Marine Animal Response Society out on the water,” she says. “It turned out that the little beluga went right up to the boat, so the team didn’t even need the cross-bow.”

 A biopsy was taken, and Luke was indeed found to be a part of the endangered species of the St. Lawrence River.

 Chisholm says there is an entire segment in the documentary about Luke, and solitary belugas. She says people don’t know why the animals get separated from their pods.

 As for Luke’s fate – it’s still a mystery. He disappeared from Liverpool last August and hasn’t been seen since.

 “He just disappeared as quickly as he showed up,” says Chisholm. “There was a theory he might have been following a food source or found other whales.”

 Call of the Baby Beluga will appear on The Nature of Things Thursday at 8 p.m.