Teddington RNLI in whale rescue

At 10:02 on Monday 10 May, Teddington RNLI were ‘paged’ by London Coastguard: the previous day Chiswick RNLI had been involved in the attempted rescue of a Juvenile Minke whale at Richmond Half Lock, but it escaped and swam to Teddington Weir! The story captured the imagination of the public. 

As Paul Roach, Deputy Launching Authority at Teddington RNLI explains: “This was a very long shout starting at about 10.00 and going on beyond 20.00. 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), British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), the Environment Agency, Port of London Authority and the Metropolitan Police.  Three local businesses also helped: 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.”

Gavin Parsons, BDMLR director and Trustee praised the work of the RNLI. “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 their assistance.” 

Says Paul Roach: “Both D Class Teddington RNLI Lifeboats (D-743 Olwen and Tom and D-785 Peter Saw) went afloat again at 02.00 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 postmortem.”

Samantha Armatage, Teddington RNLI volunteer crew, 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 it felt the will of the local community who turned out to witness this very unusual incident.”

10 May 2021 will live long in the memory. The spirit of the whale will improve our knowledge and understanding, and help us protect our precious global marine species in future.


Paul Stallard, Press Officer and Crew,

Teddington RNLI

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