A rare humpback whale has been spotted frolicking in the Thames.
The majestic marine mammal, estimated to be about 26ft in length, was initially sighted between Rainham and Greenhithe in Kent at the weekend.
Since then, several reports have come in of its progress as it has made its way back out to sea. Julia Cable, national co-ordinator for the British Divers Marine Life Rescue group, received a call on Saturday afternoon from a diver who had spotted the whale.
On Sunday, she and her team spent around three hours tracking the animal.
She told the London Evening Standard: “We watched it move down the river, the intervals between it surfacing are perfectly normal — it was about five or six minutes which is fine, it’s what they do.
“It seems to be moving along quite happily. It’s definitely a humpback, we’ve been looking at it every time it surfaced through binoculars for three hours. There’s nothing else it can be.”
Nature writer David Callahan told the paper: “It seems to be actively diving and feeding, I don’t know what’s driven it here, it’s a juvenile about 8m long. It seems to be finding food and doesn’t seem to be disturbed by container ships.
“It’s a big old thing to see in the Thames, perhaps not so much in the Atlantic.
“It’s what you expect to see on a whale-watching cruise in Hawaii, not on a walk down the Thames.”
The Port of London Authority confirmed it had also received reports of the whale in the river and had issued advice to shipping in the area.
Humpbacks migrate between cold polar waters, where they feed on small fish and krill, and their breeding waters in the tropics.
Male humpbacks in a group all sing the same song, which can last for hours with 15-20 minute-long repeating sections. The songs change every season.
Like many other large whales, the humpback was hunted almost to the brink of extinction by whalers. Since the 1966 moratorium numbers have partially recovered but whales still suffer from entanglement in fishing nets and marine noise pollution which disrupts their communication and navigation.
The last time a humpback was seen in the Thames was in 2009. The famous ‘Thames Whale’ that grabbed headlines in 2006 was a 20ft northern bottlenose.
Despite the best efforts of rescue workers and the widespread sympathy of the public that creature died. Its skeleton is now on display in the Natural History Museum.