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Friday, January 20, 2006

Northern Bottelnose Whale



Race to save whale in London

Friday, January 20, 2006; Posted: 8:08 p.m. EST (01:08 GMT)

LONDON, England -- It's a whale of a tale -- a bottle-nosed whale swimming up the River Thames past Big Ben and Parliament on Friday as rows of worried Londoners looked on.

The northern bottle-nosed whale was spotted in central London in the afternoon -- the first sighting in the river since whale-watching records began in 1913 -- as it flailed around the murky waters of the Thames, stirring up patches of what looked like blood as seagulls hovered above and rescue boats stood on the ready.

Witness Tom Howard-Vyne said he saw the mammal swim under Westminster Bridge, near Big Ben. "I saw it blow. It was a spout of water which sparkled in the air," said Howard-Vyne. "It was an amazing sight."

Other witnesses reported seeing a second whale in another part of the river Friday, and marine experts spotted two disoriented whales off northeastern Scotland last week, suggesting something was causing bottle-nosed whales to become confused.

"It is a race against time to save the animal," said Alison Shaw, marine and freshwater conservation program manager at the Zoological Society of London.

A small armada of rescue boats made frantic searches for the whale, which disappeared from view around sunset after diving under the surface of the water. (Scenes from a whale's time in London)

Crews barricaded a section of river in an attempt to force the animal to change course and reports Friday evening claimed the mammal may be heading for safety.

Britain's Maritime and Coastguard Agency said the whale was last seen at Chelsea Bridge -- further downriver from earlier sightings, meaning the animal could be moving back out to sea. (See where the whale has wandered)

"A whale in the shallow water of the River Thames is like a human lost in the heat of the Sahara desert," said Laila Sadler, scientific officer at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. She estimated it could survive only for 24 to 48 hours in a river that has an average depth of between 26 feet and 20 feet.

"It also seems to be in distress, it has made two seemingly deliberate attempts to beach itself," Sadler said.

Witnesses reported seeing injuries to the mammal, claiming its snout was bloodied. Photos also appeared to show damage to one of the whale's eyes and a number of cuts to its torso, though Sadler said these are not uncommon.

Several onlookers jumped into the river's 48-degree water -- after the mammal emerged, splashing to coax it away from shore.

The whale -- which is about 17 feet long -- is normally seen in the deep northern Atlantic, traveling in pods. They can reach 26 feet long -- the size of a red double-decker London bus.

When sick, old or injured, whales often get disoriented and swim off from their pod, said Mark Simmonds, science director at Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, although witnesses reported seeing a second whale in a different section of the river Friday.

Scientists have said fluctuating ocean temperatures, predators, lack of food and even sonar from ships can send whales into waters that are dangerous for the mammals.

"It's going to be very confused. It's already stranded twice. The poor creature doesn't know where to go," said Tony Martin, a senior scientist with the British Antarctic Survey.

The whale drew hundreds of people and scores of television crews to the river's banks and captivated Londoners who called radio and television stations asking if they could help.

London's Natural History Museum said it was the first time a northern bottle-nose has been sighted in the Thames since it began records in 1913.

http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/europe/01/20/
britain.whale/index.html

3 comments:

aquagreen said...

Lost whale dies after rescue bid

The 18ft (5m) northern bottle-nosed whale was first spotted in the river on Friday and rescuers began an attempt to save it on Saturday morning.

But the whale died at about 1900 GMT on Saturday as rescuers transported it on a barge towards deeper water in the Thames Estuary.

It was moved after being placed in a special pontoon near Battersea Bridge.

Alan Knight, from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) which led the rescue operation, said the animal died after it began to convulse while it was still on the barge.

See how they harnessed the whale

"It has been a helter skelter ride all the way through. It is a sad end to a very long day," he said.

"Basically this is probably the right thing to happen in the end.

"If it had continued in this way we certainly wouldn't have released it.

"Perhaps this has saved that very difficult decision."

Earlier, close to Battersea Bridge, thousands of onlookers applauded as rescuers placed the whale on to a pontoon to move it from shallow water.

It was winched on to the Port of London Authority barge where it was laid on an inflatable raft functioning as a "makeshift whale mattress".

As the whale was carried upstream towards the estuary a vet administered antibiotics.

Earlier, naturalist and television presenter, Terry Nutkins, said the rescue operation was the wrong thing to do and that the animal needed space.

He told BBC Radio Five Live: "It wouldn't It wouldn't know what was happening, it was surrounded by boats...it would have been absolutely terrified as well as being stressed because it wouldn't be used to noises of propellers or engines.

"It was kept...like a goldfish in a bowl. So, it doesn't surprise me that it's died."

However, he later concluded he had "no doubts" the rescue operation had been the best way to try to save the whale.

"You can't leave a whale stranded in the Thames and we did the best we could," he added.

The whale, which could weigh about four tonnes, was first spotted at on Friday morning by a man on a train.

There were reports of a pod of whales in the Thames estuary earlier in the week, and it was possible that the whale had become separated from this group.

It was the first sighting of the endangered species in the Thames since records began nearly a century ago.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/4635874.stm

aquagreen said...

Dead whale is examined by experts

Despite a seven hour rescue attempt, the 18ft (5m) northern bottle-nosed whale died on a barge which was trying to take it back to deep waters.

The mammal suffered breathing problems and muscle spasms when it convulsed and died on Saturday evening.

Paul Jepson, from the Zoological Society of London, hopes to find out why the animal became lost on Friday.

Thousands of onlookers lined the river to watch as the mammal was put on a special pontoon at Battersea Bridge and then onto a barge on Saturday.

Millions more around the world then watched the doomed rescue attempt on television.

The whale was being taken to Shivering Sands off the north Kent coast, where rescuers had hoped to release it back into the sea.

This plan had already been scaled down from an earlier one to transfer it to an "ocean-going vessel" and take it to deep water off the south coast.

Earlier, naturalist and television presenter Terry Nutkins said the rescue operation was the wrong thing to do and that the animal needed space.

He told BBC Radio Five Live: "It wouldn't know what was happening, it was surrounded by boats... it would have been absolutely terrified as well as being stressed.

"It was kept... like a goldfish in a bowl. So, it doesn't surprise me that it's died."

However, he later concluded he had "no doubts" the rescue operation had been the best way to try to save the whale.

Tony Woodley, a director of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) group said that despite the sad outcome, the decision to move the whale - costing the group about £100,000 - was correct and they had given it their "best shot".

We always knew that it was going to be risky. We did everything that we could and I am afraid that this time it was not a success

BDMLR's Tony Woodley said: "The organisation was under extreme pressure from other experts and the media and it is our opinion that we did the right thing for the whale.

"We believe that if the whale would have been left how it was then it would have just slowly died and we don't think that was the acceptable option to take.

"We always knew that it was going to be risky. We did everything that we could and I am afraid that this time it was not a success."

He denied suggestions that the noise made by boats as the whale lay in the Thames caused its eventual death.

A spokeswoman for the Zoological Society of London said Mr Jepson was among the best qualified to carry out the post-mortem examination given his previous research work on stranded marine mammals.

It will be carried out at Gravesend in Kent where the whale was unloaded and take about six hours.

She added the results of the tests would be known on Wednesday or Thursday.

The whale, which could weigh about four tonnes, was first spotted at on Friday morning.

There were reports of a pod of whales in the Thames estuary earlier in the week, and it was possible the whale had become separated from this group.

It was the first sighting of the endangered species in the Thames since records began in 1913.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/
england/london/4636278.stm


Thames whale could help others

Animal welfare groups say the whale which died after swimming up the Thames may help raise awareness for the species' plight across the world.

The attempt to save the northern bottle-nosed whale was worldwide news, before the rescue operation ended in tragedy on Saturday night.

One animal welfare group has called for the "outpouring of emotion" to be directed towards other whales.

A post-mortem is being carried out to see why the whale entered the river.

The whale died at 1900GMT on Saturday after being lifted onto a barge trying to take it back out to sea.

A spokeswoman for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said: "Whales around the world face deadly threats - from whaling by Japan, Norway and Iceland, pollution and habitat destruction, and increased noise in the ocean.

"We hope the whale which visited the UK Houses of Parliament can act as ambassador for all whales, and that its death won't be in vain."

She said that loud noise from undersea drilling, shipping traffic or military sonar could have led to the whale becoming disorientated and moving into the river.

Northern bottle-nosed whales are usually found in water over 1,000m deep in the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

But Tony Woodley, director of the group which attempted to save the whale on Saturday, said human interference could not yet be blamed for the whale's fate.

"It is generally accepted that the animal was lost, being away from its normal environment of the deep Atlantic, but until the post-mortem is completed we can't tell if it had major internal problems or not." He also defended the decision to lift the whale out of the water.

"We believe that if the whale would have been left how it was, it would have just slowly died and we don't think that was the acceptable option to take," he said.

"We did feel that what we did yesterday was the best that we could do in the circumstances and we gave it our best shot."

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the government was trying its best to protect whales across the world.

The UK remains at the forefront of the anti-whaling campaign and the Government is determined to continue the moratorium on commercial whaling, a spokesman said.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/
england/london/4637918.stm

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