Chiswick RNLI Lifeboat called to second whale incident after 15 year gap

Lifeboats News Release

At 8:15pm on Sunday 9 May 2021 Chiswick RNLI Lifeboat night shift crew were called to a whale in distress at Richmond Lock, 15 years after being called to a similar incident that made the national news in January 2006.

The whale was beached on the boat rollers at Richmond half tide lock. Two hours either side of high tide boats can pass through without using the lock but small, unpowered craft can use the boat rollers.

The lock keeper was already there hosing down the whale. The lifeboat crew were soon joined by specialists from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) and a little later by the London Fire Brigade fireboat.

BDMLR confirmed it was a young Minke whale and assessed its condition. Watched by a large crowd of onlookers, crew from the three agencies worked together to manoeuvre the creature onto BDMLR’s inflatable cradle.

The lifeboat towed the cradle half a mile downstream as far as Isleworth where the whale freed itself. The exhausted crew returned to station in the early hours of Monday.

After a well deserved rest Chiswick RNLI Commander Andy Mayo said:

‘We have many calls for assistance for pets and their owners in the water and occasionally swans but this was a different order of problem. The BDMLR team supervised the difficult rescue with the assistance of three RNLI crew and many firefighters. Although it was left swimming freely, we understand there is still concern about the young whale so far from its natural habitat’.

Chiswick RNLI lifeboat station is the second busiest in the UK and Ireland. Since The RNLI search and rescue service on the Thames started in 2002, Chiswick Lifeboat has attended over 3,500 incidents and rescued over 1,750 people. The RNLI is entirely funded by public donations.

RNLI media contacts

  • David Clarke RNLI Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer (Chiswick), 07951 210500 [email protected]
  • For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 33678
Chiswick crew assist in preparing BDMLR's inflatable cradle


Chiswick crew assist in preparing BDMLR's inflatable cradle


Chiswick crew working with BDMLR

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The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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