VIDEO: Beluga whale spotted in the River Thames
Ultra-rare sighting of Arctic whale near Gravesend
The River Thames has welcomed an unexpected visitor in the form of a beluga whale.
Onlookers were astonished to see the white marine creature, more commonly associated like the Arctic waters around North America, Greenland and Iceland swimming alongside barges near Gravesend this morning.
Ecologist Dave Andrews was the first to raise the alarm, posting on Twitter about the highly unusual sighting.
“Can’t believe I’m writing this,” he tweeted at around 10.30am this morning after spotting the marine creature in the water near Coalhouse Fort, Essex.
He then uploaded a video of the beluga surfacing and diving in the river, where it appeared to be diving for fish.
It has been three years since a beluga was seen in British waters, off the coast of Northumberland, the BBC reports. Through hunting and pollution, they are considered a near-threatened species.
Ecologist and whalewatcher Michael Hoit told the London Evening Standard that the animal may have sought shelter in the Thames estuary during recent stormy weather.
News of the surprise visitor has attracted nature-lovers to the banks of the river in the hope of catching a glimpse of the beluga.
Several news websites have even set up live feeds to update curious readers on the mammal’s every move.
However, the Essex Wildlife Trust warned onlookers to keep their distance.
“Please keep your distance and do not take to the water - let's give this amazing cetacean the best chance of making its way safely back out to sea,” the group said.
A spokeswoman for the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, which is tracking the whale, said it was “swimming strongly” and appeared in good health. The Natural History Museum and RSPCA are also monitoring the situation.