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Hessy the humpback whale was a baby GIRL and had been hit by a large SHIP, confirm scientists after heartbreaking scenes as her 32ft carcass was hoisted from the Thames

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 09/10/2019 Rory Tingle For Mailonline

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Hessy the humpback whale © Getty Hessy the humpback whale

The 32ft carcass of a humpback whale spotted swimming in the River Thames is now being dissected by scientists amid reports it died after becoming malnourished due to a lack of feeding. 

Scientists examining the carcass have now revealed Hessy was a baby girl and had been hit by a large ship. 

The magnificent animal, nicknamed Hessy, had been travelling back and forth over a stretch of five miles after it was first sighted near Dartford Bridge in Kent on Sunday, but was found dead at around 5pm yesterday.  


Two Port of London Authority boats and one RNLI lifeboat were deployed to recover the carcass at around 6.30pm and tow it to shore, before it was kept overnight and then winched onto a trailer this morning on its way to dissection. 

Three boats worked in tandem to slowly move the carcass along the river to the Port of London Authority's Denton Wharf.

A spokesman for the Port of London authority said the whale was found underneath the Dartford Crossing. He told MailOnline: 'We had two Port of London patrol boats – the Kew and the East Haven – plus an RNLI life boat. 

'We managed to secure the whale to the larger of the boats, the Kew, and then began dragging it. The whale was so big and heavy that the Kew was only able to do one and a half miles an hour.

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'It took us four hours to take it to the Port of London authority facility in Gravesend. It was kept there overnight and ZSL (Zoological Society of London) came and picked it up in the morning.' 

a close up of a map: A map showing how the typical migration route of a humpback whale passes the UK's north coast. This particular whale was not following the usual pattern © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited A map showing how the typical migration route of a humpback whale passes the UK's north coast. This particular whale was not following the usual pattern

Rare sightings of the whale had delighted onlookers and whale watchers, who flocked to the banks of the Thames to catch a glimpse of the elusive animal.

Experts say it is likely the juvenile whale made a navigational error and swam up the Thames from the North Sea last week on a spring tide when the water level was at its highest. 

Martin Garside, of the Port of London Authority, was on the first boat dispatched to Hessy at about 6.30pm last night.

He said: 'It was quite eery. I was lucky in a way to see such a beautiful creature. There I was standing so close to this magnificent creature, with the motorway traffic whizzing about above me.

'It was moving in really fast water. We were afraid of losing it so we called for assistance. It took four hours at one and a half miles per hour. We had three boats involved, Easthaven, Kew and the RNLI. Kew dragged it.

a dog swimming in a body of water: Benny the beluga whale rose to national fame when he was spotted in the River Thames last year. © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Benny the beluga whale rose to national fame when he was spotted in the River Thames last year.

'The whale is very big, it's at least ten metres long. Exact details about length and weight will come out in the next few days. A whale in the Thames is very rare

'It was very big - it's at least ten metres long.'

Lucy Babey, head of science at ORCA, believes it may have become disorientated after not getting enough food. 

'From the photographs and reports, it looks like the whale was malnourished and didn't have many fat reserves on it, so it clearly hadn't been feeding properly,' she told MailOnline. 

Rare sightings of the whale had delighted onlookers and whale watchers, who flocked to the banks of the Thames to catch a glimpse of the elusive animal © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Rare sightings of the whale had delighted onlookers and whale watchers, who flocked to the banks of the Thames to catch a glimpse of the elusive animal

'These animals need big fat reserves for their long migrations when they can travel tens of thousands of miles, and to keep warm in cold water.

'It was clearly in poor nutritional health, which meant it was disoriented and made a navigational error. It would have died anyway even if it was not in the Thames.

'Why it hadn't been feeding properly is what we'll find out in the autopsy.' 

a large ship in a body of water: The whale has signs of 'historic entanglement' scarring on its dorsal fin but looks unharmed apart from that © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The whale has signs of 'historic entanglement' scarring on its dorsal fin but looks unharmed apart from that

Another humpback whale which entered the Thames 10 years ago is known to have died of starvation.

The exact cause of Hessy's death will be determined following analysis from the Cetacean Strandings Investigations Programme at London Zoo. It is the fifth humpback whale to be recorded stranded in the UK by the programme.

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