A beluga whale was spotted swimming down the River Thames near Kent yesterday, thousands of miles from its usual habitat in the Arctic, and it’s the most southerly sighting of a beluga ever recorded in the UK.
Nicknamed Benny, the whale is being monitored closely by rescue teams, who are making sure it eventually finds its way back to the open ocean. While no one knows the exact reason Benny decided to take this spontaneous tour of the UK, it’s likely due to a simple navigational error.
Rescue teams are worried that plastic bags and other trash could potentially become a problem for Benny, and that any noise in the water could impair its sonar system. But Tanya Ferry, environment manager at the Port of London Authority, which is monitoring the whale, told BBC News, “We’re hoping if we give it enough space and keep an eye on it, it will find its own way out of the Thames to an environment that’s more appropriate for it.” Observers have also noted that it appears to be feeding normally, and has progressed down the Thames toward the estuary, which is a good sign.
Hopefully Benny fares better than the northern bottlenose whale found swimming in the Thames in 2006. It died during the rescue attempt.