Baby whale freed by desperate rescue mission after getting stuck in the River Thames

A desperate rescue was launched to free after a baby whale that had become stranded along the River Thames.

Hundreds gathered at Richmond Lock and Weir on Sunday night after the mammal, believed to be a Minke whale – between three to four metres long, became stuck.

The whale got into difficulty as it was washed ashore at the lock after swimming all the way through central London.

Videos showed it being hosed down by a man, while a vet performed a check-up at the river’s edge, before the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) arrived at the scene to cheers at around 9pm.

Glen Nicolaides from London Fire Brigade told the BBC the whale had been moved to a more “stable” location where it would be assessed to determine the scale of its injuries and whether it could be released.

And in further good signs for the whale’s condition, it was towed along the river to Isleworth, where it managed to swim free.

The whale has not been seen since, raising hopes it will fully recover from the incident.

The beached whale, which some witnesses have claimed could be 19ft-long, was spotted earlier in the day swimming in the Thames under Barnes Bridge.

Jake Manketo, 20, from Richmond, said: “Everyone here is just hoping they get it out.

“We couldn’t believe our eyes when we first saw the poor fella, not every day something like this happens in Richmond.”

The whale appeared to have got stuck on the lock’s boat rollers, as emergency staff work to set it free.

Fire crews have also been pictured at the scene, along with the British Divers Marine Life Rescue service.

It is believed the whale was first spotted at midday a few miles up the river near Barnes Bridge.

A spokesman for the Port of London Authority, which owns and operates the lock, said: “At around 7pm on Sunday, a small whale, approximately 3-4m long, believed to be a Minke whale, became stranded at Richmond Lock and Weir.

“PLA staff have attempted to assist the whale with water along with British Divers Marine Life Rescue.

“The whale is still alive and the Metropolitan Police are working to keep the public away from the water’s edge.”

The spokesman added that the situation is “not good”, though there is no “immediate danger” to the whale.

Minke whales are the smallest of the great whales, growing to about 10m.

They can usually be found throughout the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Their range extends from the ice edge in the Arctic during the summer to near the equator during winter.

Dozens of people have shared their pictures of the whale on social media.

One man wrote on Twitter : “Astonishing – and rather sad – sight of a whale (baby Minky???) stuck at Richmond Lock Bridge… Vet in attendance and a large crowd of people willing it back into the river!”

Another wrote: “Animal rescue now here – hopefully they will be able to help the poor guy!”

Someone else said: “This is one very very lost whale.

“It’s gone through the whole of London to Richmond lock.”

A witness at the scene described the whale as ‘not moving a lot’, saying it appeared to be trapped.