The structure, which was specially designed and made for the Sea Life Trust Beluga Whale Sanctuary, was dragged on a 16-hour journey across 48 miles by a tugboat to the island of Heimaey, off the coast of Iceland.

It marks the latest step in the reintroduction to open water of the two belugas, nicknamed Little Grey and Little White, who were previously performing whales in indoor captivity in China before being rehomed by the Sea Life Trust.

The pair were first brought to their new sanctuary home in Klettsvik Bay in 2020, nearly 10 years after they last swam in ocean water, before being taken back to a care facility.

The new Intermediate Habitat structure, which has a diameter of 50 meters and weighs nearly 17 tonnes, will help the pair acclimatise to the sanctuary.

Graham McGrath, head of the Sea Life Trust, said: “It was an epic sight to witness the Intermediate Habitat being pulled into the harbour by the island’s tugboat for the first time.

“As a world-first project, our teams are carrying out pioneering research which helps us to understand the behaviours of Little Grey and Little White’s transition into the wider bay.

“Once this halo-like structure has been fully installed, it will play a vital role in the long-term success of the Sea Life Trust Beluga Whale Sanctuary and other sanctuaries like it in the future.”