Young minke whale freed after becoming stranded on River Thames

Rescuers have managed to free a small whale which became stranded along the River Thames in west London. The whale, thought to be a young minke whale, was first spotted at Richmond Lock and Weir at ar

Young minke whale freed after becoming stranded on River Thames

Rescuers have managed to free a small whale which became stranded along the River Thames in west London.

The whale, thought to be a young minke whale, was first spotted at Richmond Lock and Weir at around 7pm on Sunday.

Hundreds of people gathered after the whale, which was between three to four metres long, became stuck on the lock's boat rollers.

A whale is stranded at Richmond Lock. Pic: Lucia Binding
Image: The whale became stranded at Richmond Lock. Pic: Lucia Binding
A crowd watches rescue efforts after a minke whale was stranded in Richmond. Pic: Lucia Binding
Image: People gathered at the riverside to watch the rescue efforts. Pic: Lucia Binding

The Port London Authority (PLA) told Sky News the whale was freed at 1am after a joint operation by the London Fire Brigade, a Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) crew and the British Divers Marine Life Rescue.

The spokesperson said the whale had been towed along the river to Isleworth where it was left to "swim free".

On Sunday evening videos showed the animal being hosed down by a man, while a vet performed a check-up at the river's edge, before the RNLI arrived at the scene to cheers from onlookers at around 9pm.

The whale had been thrashing around in between periods of apparent lifelessness but rescue workers were taking it really steady and cautiously, aware of how distressed the baby whale was.

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A whale is stranded at Richmond Lock. Pic: Lucia Binding
Image: The rescuers are trying to work out what to do next. Pic: Lucia Binding
Whale in the Thames. Credit: Richard Frank
Image: Minke whales are the smallest of the great whales, growing to about 10m. Pic: Richard Frank

Just after 10pm, rescuers put the whale onto an inflatable dinghy and the whale's tail could be seen thrashing a little.

Whale in the Thames. Credit: Richard Frank
Image: The whale is between three to four metres long. Pic: Richard Frank
Whale in the Thames. Credit: Richard Frank
Image: It is believed the whale was first spotted a few miles up the river near Barnes Bridge. Pic: Richard Frank

Julia Cable, national coordinator for British Divers Marine Life Rescue, told Sky News: "It's surprising that no one spotted the whale on its journey to Richmond Lock.

"We do not know how long it has been trapped here but was spotted at 7.30pm.

"The nutritional condition of the whale is fairly poor. He or she isn't nicely rounded like a whale should be, so it's nutritionally compromised.

"There's also damage to the pectoral fins, from stranding, and the fin is showing signs that perhaps it was stranded somewhere earlier in the day as well. But it's now comfortable and the breathing rate is low.

"We have sent pictures to the vet so we can get further advice on what to do next."

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

"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.

Whale in the Thames
Image: Rescue workers from various agencies have been trying to save the whale. Pic: Richard Frank

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 10 metres.

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