Dead 32ft humpback whale found in Thames was 'hit by a ship'

9 October 2019, 07:50

The whale, nicknamed Hessy, was found dead on Tuesday
The whale, nicknamed Hessy, was found dead on Tuesday. Picture: @RichardJBanner

By Megan White

A humpback whale which died after swimming up the River Thames was hit by a ship, the Zoological Society of London has said.

The female juvenile, nicknamed Hessy, was found dead near Greenhithe after she became “lost or ill.”

It is not clear whether she was struck by a vessel before or after her death.

The British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), which has been dedicated to the rescue and well-being of marine animals in distress around the UK for more than 30 years, said they found the whale around 5pm on Tuesday.

In a statement on Twitter, the organisation said: "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."

Hessy was first spotted swimming along the Thames on Sunday.

A spokesperson for charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation said the death of the whale was "not unexpected", adding: "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."

BDMLR national co-ordinator Julia Cable said it is "very unusual" for a humpback whale to be seen within the Thames Estuary.

"It's very likely that it just made a navigational error," she said.

It is not the first time a lost whale has been spotted in the Thames.

In 2006, a northern bottlenose whale was spotted in central London, but was too weak to find its way back out of the river on its own and 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 spotted swimming in the Thames near Gravesend.

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