Sunday 6 October 2019

Thames Whale

Just another October London whale.... 

Yesterday news broke of a possible Minke Whale off Rainham. It was still there, or thereabouts today, and around 4pm I decided it was now or never and headed over there. My London Whale list means a great deal to me. Andy L was viewing it just from the Kent side just east of the bridge but felt confident that it would return upriver on the rising tide. He was spot on, but as I walked down the dead end path at Purfleet's Harrisons Wharf, I was still astonished to see a huge blow from a surfacing cetacean just off the condemned jetty. 

The whale was making its way slowly upstream, and about every five minutes I had a view as it surfaced. First at the Mardyke, then off Rainham RSPB, and finally in Aveley Bay. I was camera-less, electing on this occasion to go with a scope. I could always take a shot with my phone... yeah, in the three seconds it spent on the surface each time! To see it against the London skyline was surreal in the extreme. Let's hope it finds its way out again.

By now Dave C had it from the small car park at the west end of the sea wall, so I hopped back in the car and drove around to Coldharbour Lane. As I walked down the path it surfaced again off Erith Yacht Club, still heading steadily west. We tried the Stone Barges in the hope it would come round the point, but the light failed before it did so. 

By now I had a few photos, the 'best' of which are shown here. I am not very good at phone-scoping, but Dave has some better ones, including of the tail flukes. The latest thinking is that this is a Humpback Whale, which would be quite extraordinary if confirmed. The Beluga last year got quite a lot of press attention, this may do so as well once it gets picked up on. Here is a very short video segment of it briefly breaking the surface.