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Name That Whale: And The Winner’s From ... Melville 3/8

February 15, 1992

NEW YORK (AP) _ Drumroll, please: It’s time for Name That Whale 3/8

Two rare baby belugas received their names Friday and met the humans - picked from a litter of 10,000 entrants - who won the New York Aquarium’s Moby-moniker contest.

Are you ready? One winner’s maiden name was Whalen and she’s from Melville. (However, historians say the Long Island hamlet apparently was not named for ″Moby Dick″ author Herman Melville.)

The newly named whales are the longest-surviving belugas born in captivity.

The name contest began Nov. 27. Entries included Percy, ″short for persevere,″ and Raffi, after the children’s entertainer famous for ″Baby Beluga.″

″We had a lot of Borises, a lot of Coneys (as in Island, the aquarium’s home); Nathan (of hot dog fame), Brighton (Beach), Brooklyn, a few Dodgers,″ said spokesman Rick Miller.

And the winning names are ...

... Like any contest worth its sea salt, you’ll have to wait.

The whales have different moms, but the same dad, Newfy.

Natasha’s son, born Aug. 7, is about 5 feet long; Kathi’s son, born Aug. 14, is around 6 feet.

The beluga boys, accompanied by Moms, shyly greeted the women who named them: Kim Pestour of Melville and Pia Proios of Queens.

″We feel like we’re the godmothers to the whales,″ said Proios.

The winners’ prizes include scuba lessons (though not in the whale tank) and a whale tongue-petting session.

A what?

″It’s a very pleasant tactile sensation for them, like a person getting their shoulders massaged,″ said Miller. (And who discovered that whales liked this? Jonah?)

″It was so neat touching the baby in the mouth: it was so soft,″ said Pestour. ″One time I stopped touching him, he spurted a little water to get our attention. My fingers still smell like fish.″

Aquarium staff, practically herniated by the mail, sent the judges 50 or 60 entries that ″were representative of something: where the whales came from, or Brooklyn, or something marine-related or scientific,″ said Miller.

Suggestions to name the whales after competitors’ dogs or children, though touching, were filed elsewhere.

So, faithful readers, may we present:

Natasha’s baby, ″Hudson,″ named by Proios.

And ″Casey (K.C.),″ for Kathi’s Calf, named by Pestour.

Like Cher, these celebs will remain sans surname.

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