Teddington RNLI crew reflect on day spent rescuing whale

  Posted: 11.05.21 at 21:01 by Paul Stallard, Teddington RNLI

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After yesterday's tragic ending to the story of the minke whale calf trapped at Teddington Lock , local RNLI crew members reflect on a very unusual day in the station's history .

Here Paul Stallard tells the story of the day a whale came to Teddington Lock from the perspective of the lifeboat crew:

Teddington RNLI were paged by London Coastguard at 10:02am on Monday 10 May 2021.

Only the day before our colleagues at Chiswick RNLI had been involved in the attempted rescue at Richmond Half Lock.

The story captured the imagination of the public. All our crew at Teddington RNLI had been following the story.

The sheer strength of the whale enabled it to escape and swim away from the initial rescue.

RNLI crew were interviewed by TV crews covering the story

The whale was next spotted at Teddington Weir by a member of the public who rang one of the Teddington RNLI crew.

After Teddington RNLI notified the London Coastguard at 10:02am on Monday 10 May 2021, the pagers went and Teddington RNLI crew were called into action.

The story of the juvenile minke whale has been well documented on TV, radio and press this week.

In this article, I simply wanted to capture how everyone at Teddington RNLI feel about the work we did and also to share the reaction of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR).

As Paul Roach, Deputy Launching Authority (DLA) at Teddington RNLI explains: "This was a very long shout starting at about 10am and going on beyond 8pm.

Hundreds of people lined Teddington lock bridge to catch a glimpse of whale

"It was a great effort by the crew who rotated amongst themselves, juggling work and domestic commitments to ensure we stayed afloat all day.

"It was also a great example of multi-agency cooperation between ourselves, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), BDMLR, the Environment Agency, Port of London Authority and the Metropolitan Police.

"Three local businesses also helped out where the drama unfolded; the Flying Cloud Cafe, Boathouse Design Studio and Teddington Harbour.

"It wasn’t the outcome any of us wanted but it wasn’t for lack of trying."

For many people the incident will have enhanced their understanding of the Earth’s whale population and also the work of the BDMLR.

Crew members assisted medics when the whale got stuck

Gavin Parsons, BDMLR director and Trustee praised the work of the RNLI: "British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) has always worked well with RNLI crews around the country.

"Our medic teams have the utmost respect for the work the RNLI does and the Minke Whale in the River Thames incident showed the Teddington crew exhibits the same professionalism and dedication to duty as every other team our medics work alongside.

"Although the incident didn't become a rescue as many hoped, the outcome was the best for that individual whale so it no longer suffered.

"BDMLR would like to thank the Teddington RNLI crew for the assistance with the animal."

Gianna Saccomani, Deputy Lifeboat Press Officer and Crew who was on the first D Class (D-743 Olwen and Tom) on scene at Teddington Weir added: "I would like to pay tribute to the volunteer lifeboat crew at Teddington RNLI.

"It was a long and emotional day for everyone involved.

"Our shore crew helped to ensure the safety of members of the public so near to the water's edge."

As Paul Roach continued: "Both D Class Teddington RNLI Lifeboats (D-743 Olwen and Tom and D-785 Peter Saw) went afloat again at 2am on Tuesday 11 May to recover the whale to the slip where we launch.

"Also, London Network Scaffolding were really helpful after the recovery, assisting ZSL in transporting the whale to Whipsnade Zoo for a Post Mortem."

Samantha Armatage, who was one of the four volunteer Teddington RNLI crew members assisting medics from BDMLR, said: "Whilst we always try to remain professional and calm, it was very emotional to be part of the wider team all willing the whale to pull through.

"We lay hands on the whale as the vet arrived and hope that it felt the will of the local community who turned out to witness this very unusual incident."

For Teddington RNLI, 10 May 2021 will live long in the memory.

All the public who gathered on Teddington Footbridge and who watched the story unfold on local and national media will never forget the minke whale.

Let’s hope the whale’s legacy is more focus and attention on the beauty and fragility of the world’s marine wildlife.

Our world is a better place because of the majesty and beauty of whales.

We all know and appreciate much more than we all did before 10 May how fragile and cruel nature can be for marine wildlife.

However, if there is a positive, it’s the humanity showed by the emergency services involved and the general public who witnessed proceedings.

This humanity transcends the tragedy. The spirit of the juvenile minke whale will improve our knowledge and understanding and help us protect our precious global marine species in future.

More stories on this topic
Sad ending for Teddington Lock whale

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