Whale Watching today at Teddington Lock

Whale Watching today at Teddington Lock

by the5krunner.com

There was a sad turn of events today as I quickly discovered on returning to Teddington following a gloriously sunny run in Richmond Park.

At high tide, I joined several hundred onlookers gathered on the bridge near to another, smaller, crowd at the Flying Cloud Cafe.  This is whale that has been swimming in the tidal waters of the Thames between Richmond and Teddington; it has once again got stuck, this time near Teddington Lock and weir.

Location and Map: link to Google Maps

This Minke Whale is just over 3m long and probably weighs about a tonne. It is almost certainly a juvenile from last year and separated from its mother. Typically common minke whales are 2.4 to 2.8m long at birth and this one’s current length indicates it may have been one of the later ones to have been born in the 2020 North Atlantic breeding season which starts in early spring and peaks in the summer. These newborns nurse for at least 5 months, and whilst this one is likely to be weaned from mile, it’s sadly impossible for it to survive without adult protection.

@BethJameson (Twitter) took the video below just after high tide and just at the time I arrived (16:00); matters started to quickly go downhill from here. You can clearly see the baby whale swimming in her video before heading off out of the shallow water to some cheers from the small number who could see what was going on at this location. Sadly the whale soon returned to the same position and got stuck as the water levels quickly dropped within the next 30 minutes.

Indeed within 90 minutes, the water levels had fallen by over a metre, leaving the whale beached with cuts and small gashes showing.

Numerous professionals were on board to help. This was a multi-agency approach with the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) and the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, at least one vet and there were probably other experts here too. A van arrived and 6 policemen disembarked to supplement the PCs and PCSOs already there for crowd control. Add to that two members of the Parks Patrol with Patrol Dogs plus two TV crews and the scene was set.

Oh, I forgot to mention Teddington’s awesome volunteer Lifeguards who were busily involved in very many activities ranging from crowd liaison to fetching and placing a whale flotation device and, later, to also help cool and hydrate the whale once it became stranded.


My initial thoughts were that those involved should be attempting to get the whale away from the bank before it became stranded. However, some of those in the crowd suggested that this might not have been possible once the water levels lowered due to various dangerous obstacles, such as metal railing, making the route back to deeper water risky.

As the water levels fell the whale became increasingly inactive as its weight was no loner supported by the water. I was able to take these 3 disturbing images (sorry 🙁 ) as the whale’s predicament worsened and these were just before we were moved away from the immediate vicinity of the whale. The whale appeared to be in very bad shape here and others who had just arrived assumed it to be nearly dead. Hopefully, that was not the case as, remember, an hour earlier the young whale had been swimming around in deeper water.



By 6 o’clock the whale was stuck and totally out of water. Clearly, there is no lifting equipment in place to safely move a one-tonne whale and it was going nowhere until the next high tide.

High tide today was shortly before I arrived at 15:18 and low tide will be at 22:57.  So the next hope of any rescue will be at the next high tide at 03:29 on Tuesday. In the meantime the lifeboat service is tending to the animal as best they can and two flotation devices are already in place to either side of the whale. The minke whale is being continuously splashed with water from buckets.

Like many Brits, I have a keen interest and care for wildlife and I’ve been privileged to experience many wonderful animal moments over the years. Sadly this is the first time I’ve seen a whale.

Hopefully, Tuesday morning will bring good news.

Edit: Sadly just after posting this I learned that the vet youthenised the whale (19:05PM)





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