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ALL RELISH WHALE OF A LOVE AFFAIR

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A killer whale appears to have flipped for a Norwegian ferry, enchanting passengers and most of Norway as it tries to court the lumbering vessel.

For 10 days, the 13-foot-long mammal has hugged the side of the Voksa, a 150-foot car and passenger ferry, on its glamourless route to island villages that freckle the west coast of Norway.Norwegian newspapers widely reported the black-and-white sea mammal's infatuation with the black-and-white ferry.

Although the whale has been making all the advances, a Voksa crewman said, "It's hard to say who fell in love with whom."

The crew claims the whale enjoys showing off for people. They named it Hanna, despite questions of its gender.

Kjell Nystoeyl, the Voksa's 35-year-old captain, said Hanna probably lost her flock, seen in the area about a month ago. "There must be some vibration from the ship's hull that she finds comforting," he said.

Sea mammal expert Karl Inne Ugland of the University of Oslo said the whale is lonely and wants company because it has a strong flock instinct. He said it is probably a young female, about 7 years old.

Killer whales, actually large dolphins, are intelligent and Hanna knows she is being watched by people aboard the ferry, Ugland said.

In port, the whale gently bumps and rubs herself against the Voksa's cold steel hull. She rolls over lazily to allow streams of water pumped from the ship's side to shower her white belly.

Hanna lolls in the bubbly backwash of the ship's propellers, waiting up to half an hour for it to load passengers and cars. The whale peers up at downturned faces, showing her teeth, which causes many passengers to smile back.

The unlikely pair has drawn crowds at each of the four stops on the ferry's 12-mile-long route in the beautiful and remote fjord south of the town of Aalesund.

Passengers endured icy wind to spend hours leaning over the ship's side, watching the antics. Some drove eight or nine hours on treacherous mountain roads to see Hanna. Teachers suspended classes so schoolchildren could ride the ferry.

"She's like the ferry's guardian angel. When she is around nothing bad could happen to the Voksa," said passenger Gerd Ristesund.

The whale dives deep under the white foam of Voksa's wake as it clips along at 14 mph, then erupts inches from the boat, splashing delighted passengers. She has logged about 745 miles a week at Voksa's side, Nystoeyl said.