Humpback whale spotted in River Thames dies, say charity

8 October 2019, 22:30

Hessy the whale was first spotted swimming in the Thames on Sunday
Hessy the whale was first spotted swimming in the Thames on Sunday. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Hessy the humpback whale who was first spotted swimming in the River Thames on Sunday has died, according to a charity.

The British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) tweeted the devastating news on Tuesday evening, saying they had found the dead whale at around 5pm.

BDLMR have been responsible for the rescue and well-being of marine animals in distress around the UK for more than 20 years.

They released a statement on Twitter, saying: "Terribly sad news that soon after 5pm today the humpback whale which had not been seen in the Thames all day, was found dead around the Greenhithe area.

"Hopefully tomorrow a necropsy will be carried out to determine the cause of death."

A spokesperson for the charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation said the death was "not unexpected".

They said: "There was always the possibility that the humpback had come up the Thames because he or she was lost or ill.

"Sadly, thousands of whales and dolphins and porpoises die on shores across the globe every year, some through natural causes such as disease, disorientation, and some due to human activity such as loud underwater noise pollution from military activity or oil exploration."

Seeing a whale in the Thames Estuary was "very unusual" according to BDMLR national co-ordinator Julia Cable.

She said it was "very likely" the whale made "a navigational error" and added that there was no indication the animal was in any distress.

The BDMLR added: "The Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) will carry out a necropsy as soon as it's possible, they will then publish their findings."

It is not the first time a marine mammal has found itself in the Thames.

In 2006, a northern bottlenose whale was spotted in the river in central London which was too weak to find its way back out of the river on its own.

The dolphin died as rescuers attempted to transport it back to sea.

In 2009 a humpback whale was found washed up on the shore of the Thames in Kent, having seemingly died from starvation.

A year ago a beluga whale, which was given the nickname Benny, was also spotted swimming in the Thames near Gravesend.

It is thought to have made its own way back out to sea in the new year.