The initial excitement from sightings of at least one 17 – 18 foot northern bottlenose whale in the Thames in London turned to drama as the animal continued to be sighted and finally stranded. Emma Webb, a senior researcher from the Biscay Dolphin Research Programme (BDRP) and a volunteer marine medic for the British Divers Marine Life Rescue Service (BDMLR) was on site participating with the rescue attempt.
Following an update from BDMLR headquarters regarding two nocturnal strandings of the animal near Battersea, Emma headed for Albert and Vauxhall bridges on Saturday morning where the animal was at risk of stranding again. The whale was surfacing normally at this time, but the BDMLR team wanted to beach the animal safely in order that an inflatable pontoon could contain it and prevent it from injuring itself. However, the whale started heading up the river and beached itself on the south bank of the river just past Battersea Bridge.
Once stranded, the medics including Emma went into action applying water to the whale’s skin and maintaining moisture levels around the eyes and blowhole with lubricant. The sheer size of the whale required some improvisation with pontoons, but these constrained the whale and allowed Dr Paul Jepson, the on site vet, to start his assessments of the whale whilst the team continued their efforts to keep the animal comfortable – this seemed to work, as its breathing remained calm and steady.
Adrian Shephard | alfa
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