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Last Updated: Saturday, 21 January 2006, 20:56 GMT
In pictures: Whale rescue

Herding the whale to shallow water

As the tide dropped, the attempt to rescue a whale stranded in the River Thames began. This man herded the whale toward the shore...

People watch from the bank

... watched by spectators and TV viewers around the world. The public was later moved from the foreshore to avoid the rising tide and make way for rescuers.

Whale thrashes

Rescuers laid their hands on the whale to steady and reassure it, keeping their palms flat so as to protect its delicate skin.

Hands on whale

A sling to lift the whale off the river bottom was moved into position, as resting on the river could have caused life-threatening pressure injuries to its lungs.

Wideangle view of whale rescue from embankment

The incongruous sight of a whale beached opposite Chelsea's expensive houses had been beamed across the world.

Rescuers

Then inflatable pontoons were attached to the sling to lift the whale clear, a system developed in New Zealand, the first country to hone expertise in whale rescues.

Two vets who specialise in helping stranded whales joined the team to assess its condition and decide if it is well enough to be returned to the sea. Otherwise it could have had to have been put down.

Rescuers

As the vets got to work, rescuers splashed water on the whale's body and apply lubricating gel to its eyes and blowhole. Wet blankets were draped over its back.

Whale heading under Battersea Bridge

Crowds flocked to Battersea Bridge to see the whale travel towards the barge that planned to take it to safety.

Whale lifted onto barge

As the tide rose, the whale was lashed between inflatable rafts and towed slowly to the Crossness salvage barge that lifted it from the water.

Rescue

The yellow pontoons also acted as a hood covering the whale's eyes to keep it calm.

Whale on barge

As well as a general physical examination, blood tests and an ultrasound blubber test will determine its condition. Efforts were made to keep it calm and wet during the journey.

The whale is taken through east London

The barge made slow progress through east London but the whale died just hours later





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