Stranded whale in the Thames freed after rescue operation

9 May 2021, 21:37 | Updated: 10 May 2021, 07:50

By Will Taylor

A whale that became stuck at Richmond Lock in the Thames has been freed, it has been confirmed.

The whale, believed to be a Minke and between three to four metres long, became stuck on the lock's boat rollers.

Footage posted online showed a helper spraying the whale with water as the animal flailed about, with hundreds gathering at the scene as responders try to help it.

The whale was spotted at Richmond Lock
The whale was spotted at Richmond Lock. Picture: Jake Manketo/PA Media

Twitter user Daniel Magee said: "Beached Whale in the Thames.

"Looks injured. A bit upsetting, so moved on. Hope it can be saved."

User Annajon said: "Gorgeous humpback whale thought to be up to 6 metres in length has been spotted in the River Thames, Richmond lock.. Operation rescue under way.."

Videos showed it being hosed down by a man, while a vet performed a check-up at the river's edge.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) arrived at the scene to cheers at around 9pm, and fire crews and the British Divers Marine Life Rescue service have also been seen.

It was later confirmed that the whale had been freed and its condition was being monitored to determine the scale of its injuries and whether it could be released.

A witness said that "quite the crowd" watched as the attempted rescue took place.

Jake Manketo, 20, from Richmond, said: "Everyone here is just hoping they get it out.

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Onlookers were drawn to the scene on Sunday evening
Onlookers were drawn to the scene on Sunday evening. Picture: Jake Manketo/PA Media

"We couldn't believe our eyes when we first saw the poor fella, not every day something like this happens in Richmond."

It is believed the whale was first spotted at midday a few miles up the river near Barnes Bridge.

A spokesman for the Port of London Authority, which owns and operates the lock, said: "At around 7pm on Sunday, a small whale, approximately 3-4m long, believed to be a Minke whale, became stranded at Richmond Lock and Weir.

"PLA staff have attempted to assist the whale with water along with British Divers Marine Life Rescue.

"The whale is still alive and the Metropolitan Police are working to keep the public away from the water's edge."

Minke whales are the smallest of the great whales, growing to about 10m.

They can usually be found throughout the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Their range extends from the ice edge in the Arctic during the summer to near the equator during winter.

The lock is situated between Teddington and Richmond, comprising of three vertical steel gates suspended from a footbridge.