Qilalugak means beluga whale in Inuktitut.
Beluga whales have several nicknames. The are often referred to as 'white whales' since that's the color they eventually end up. (They start out grey-blue but gradually get lighter over the first five or six years of their lives.) Whalers dubbed them 'sea canaries,' because of the variety of birdlike sounds they make, and 'melon heads,' after the shape of their snout. Their scientific name, delphinapterus, means 'dolphin without a wing,' a reference to their lack of the prominent dorsal fin sported by their famous cousins.
According to an Inuit myth, though, the beluga is actually a descendent of a human finger. In the story, a worried father tries to rescue his daughter from her husband, a shaman who lives on the cliffs of the seashore and has the power to turn into a bird. When the bird-husband starts attacking the rescuing boat, the father tries to throw his daughter overboard. The daughter, in desperation, grips the edge of the boat; but the father chops off her fingers with an ax and she and her fingers fall under the sea. In the myth, the different fingers become the different whales and the daughter becomes the goddess of the deep.
Angliss, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine
Fisheries Service, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Mammal
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