The humpback whale who swam into the Thames has died after experts spotted it’s lifeless body floating in the water.
The aquatic mammal, nicknamed Hessy, was seen several times since the weekend, with the latest sighting near Erith Reach, around five miles west of Greenhithe.
But the British Divers Marine Life Rescue confirmed it’s body had been spotted dead in the water near Greenhithe.
But experts believe the juvenile whale made a navigational error and swam up the Thames from the North Sea last week on a spring tide when the water level is at its highest.
They thought the whale could remain in the Thames for around a week until there is another spring tide raising water levels again.
A humpback whale who swam into the Thames could be stuck in the river for a week before water levels rise high enough for it to leave
It is also feared there may not be enough food for the creature, thought to be 25-32ft long and low on fat reserves.
Another humpback whale which entered the Thames 10 years ago is known to have died of starvation.
While Benny the beluga who set up home in the river last year could use sonar to target prey such as crabs on the bottom, the humpback is a filter feeder taking in vast amounts of water to catch fish.
Julia Cable of the British Divers’ Marine Life Rescue charity said: ‘From photographs we have seen, it doesn’t seem to have a lot of fat reserves.
The mammal, nicknamed Hessy, has been spotted several times since the weekend, with the latest sighting near Erith Reach, around five miles west of Greenhithe
‘It is swimming up and down the river so it is using more and more reserves all the time.’
Julia said: ‘Without clearer sightings it’s difficult to speculate but from what we understand it is moving quite well.
‘We know it was seen this morning but we don’t know where it is now.
‘We’d like it to swim out. The water is at its lowest now – if it hasn’t swum out already I don’t think it will today.’
Experts believe the juvenile whale made a navigational error and swam up the Thames from the North Sea last week on a spring tide when the water level is at its highest
The charity has not sent any boats out to monitor the whale as it is feared it could stress the animal and are reliant on members of the public to contact them with any sightings.
What is a spring tide in the River Thames?
Parts of the River Thames is tidal, due to the flowing water from the North Sea.
Before Teddington Lock was installed, the river was tidal as far as Staines, about 16 miles (26 km) upstream.
The tidal stretch of the river is known as ‘the Tideway’, and are often recorded at London Bridge.
A spring tide – a tide just after a new or full moon – is when there is the greatest difference between high and low water.
The last spring high tide at London Bridge was on October 1, with the next on October 17.
The whale has signs of ‘historic entanglement’ scarring on its dorsal fin but looks unharmed apart from that.
A small group of whale watchers have gathered at Greenhithe in the hope of catching a glimpse of the mammal after it was first spotted near Dartford Bridge in Kent on Sunday.
Linton Hopkins, 50, ventured out to see his third whale in the Thames.
‘At the moment I’m not too confident of seeing it, hopefully it’s gone.
‘It’s a wild creature and shouldn’t be here. It would be nice to see it but ideally it will have swam out.
‘It will be very confused and very frightened. They’re sea creatures after all. They’re deep diving animals and it’s not deep enough to dive here.
‘I wonder what it’s feeding on, there’s not a lot for it to eat here.’
This will be the third whale Mr Hopkins has seen, having snapped Benny the Beluga last year and the headline making mammal that swam through central London in 2006.
He said: ‘I saw the beluga in Gravesend last year and I saw the whale in central. That was amazing – it was right outside my office I was very lucky.
The whale has signs of ‘historic entanglement’ scarring on its dorsal fin but looks unharmed apart from that
‘I had to come today. It would be nice to see but it would be better if was out at sea.
‘Obviously it would be nice to see but ideally it would be gone.’
Meanwhile a twitter has been set up for the whale. Dubbed TheThamesWhale, one joker has been quick to create a fan account for the rivers latest guest, nicknamed Hessy by her fans.
The ‘whale’ tweeted this morning: ‘Getting a bit boring swimming round in circles. So many people trying to take my picture.
Maybe I should be getting a modelling agency to sign me up’.
Another post said: ‘Honestly I’m just playing around. I hear there’s a circus in town called Brexit and I thought if I swam upriver it’d be better than taking the C2C.’
HUMPBACK WHALE POPULATIONS AND THEIR THREATS
Humpback whales live in oceans around the world. They travel incredible distances every year and have one of the longest migrations of any mammal on the planet.
Some populations swim 5,000 miles from tropical breeding grounds to colder, plentiful feeding grounds – this is why it is difficult to estimate population size, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Of the 14 distinct populations, 12 are estimated to number more than 2,000 humpback whales each and two are estimated to number fewer than 2,000.
Humpback whales live in oceans around the world. They travel incredible distances every year and have one of the longest migrations of any mammal on the planet
Some populations (such as those off eastern and western Australia) are believed to number in excess of 20,000 animals—a remarkable recovery given that the same populations were almost eradicated by whaling almost sixty years ago.
By contrast, the smallest known population is one which inhabits the Arabian Sea year-round, and may number as few as 80 individuals.
Threats to humpback whales include decline in food like Krill due to a combination of climate change and industrial-scale fishing.
Humpback whales can become entangled by many different gear types including moorings, traps, pots, or gillnets.
Once entangled, if they are able to move the gear, the whale may drag and swim with attached gear for long distances, ultimately resulting in fatigue, compromised feeding ability, or severe injury.
There is evidence to suggest that most humpback whales experience entanglement over the course of their lives, but are often able to shed the gear on their own.
Inadvertent vessel strikes can injure or kill humpback whales.
Humpback whales are vulnerable to vessel strikes throughout their range, but the risk is much higher in some coastal areas with heavy ship traffic.
Underwater noise threatens whale populations, interrupting their normal behaviour and driving them away from areas important to their survival.
Sound has been shown to increase stress hormones in their system and mask the natural sounds humpback whales require to communicate and locate prey.
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