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Last Updated: Monday, 23 January 2006, 20:23 GMT
Whale rescuers' 300 parking bill
Parking ticket on car of rescue team member: Picture by Philip Taylor

Rescue charity workers notched up 300 worth of parking fines as they battled in vain to save a whale found swimming up the River Thames.

British Divers Marine Life Rescue chairman Alan Knight said cars were parked by Vauxhall Bridge on meters.

But in a race against time to get the mammal to safety, volunteers jumped on the rescue barge on Saturday afternoon and did not return until the evening.

Westminster Council has said it will now waive the fines.

The 19ft whale, confirmed as an adolescent female, first surfaced on Friday morning in central London and throughout the day captured the attention of thousands of people who flocked to the river banks.

But she rapidly became disorientated and distressed, prompting the seven-hour rescue operation aimed at getting her back to her natural habitat in deep sea waters.

"I guess they (traffic wardens) have got a job to do," said Mr Knight, who was in charge of the rescue operation.

I would have hoped they would have given us the benefit of the doubt
Alan Knight

"However, all of our cars have 'marine ambulance' on the side or 'marine medics'... and I would have hoped they would have given us the benefit of the doubt."

A Westminster Council spokesman said that while the parking attendants were correct in issuing the tickets, these were extraordinary circumstances and the fines would be waived.

Tony Woodley, from the group, later told the BBC News website they were happy with the outcome, and thanked the council and the Greater London Authority for their co-operation.

The small charity, which relies on donations and volunteers, is hoping to raise funds for future rescues by auctioning a red watering can used in the rescue attempt on the internet.

By Tuesday morning bids had reached almost 6,500.

Meanwhile, a post-mortem examination of the northern bottle-nosed whale has taken place in Gravesend, Kent, where she died.

Findings from the examination conducted by marine expert Paul Jepson, of the Zoological Society for London, are expected to be released on Wednesday.

It was thought the whale's carcass might be buried in a landfill site or incinerated, but it has been confirmed it will go to the Natural History Museum.

The bones will be prepared and stored, to be used for scientific research.

"The whale captured the imagination of the British public - and of people all over the world - and now her legacy will live on," said one of the museum's zoologists, Richard Sabin.

MoD site 'may have fazed whale'
23 Jan 06 |  England

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