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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Let this be a lesson

Gonzo should never have been in our river. Most reports suggest that he was unwell, and this - as is normal in these creatures - drove him to shallower waters where he could surface more easily when necessary.

But the thousands of people that lined the banks today wishing Gonzo well should be seen as a landmark event in the protection of this amazing animal.

This whale's brief visit has created two days of intense media coverage, discussion and learning about a species that continues to be threatened by issues that can easily be changed.

Let's not let this end here.

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We've lost him

Sky News is reporting that Gonzo has died on the barge.

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No flash photography

The thousands of (cold) people lining the banks have been warned not to use flash photography as the barge passes by so as not to distress Gonzo any more than necessary.

The barge is now in the Thames Estuary, level with Tilbury.

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Nutkins

Well-known animal expert Terry Nutkins has branded Gonzo "an envoy from the wild".

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Gonzo's health worries

The health of the whale has become a worry. A release has not been ruled out, but officials no longer need a large, ocean-going vessel.

Described as an 'awful trade off', rescuers are going to get Gonzo as far out into deep water as possible while keeping him on the barge for as short a period as possible.

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"Not fit for transfer"

Hopes for an easy rescue are dashed as Gonzo is labelled 'not fit for transfer' by vets on the barge.

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Anyone got a big boat?

Rescuers have appealed to anyone who owns an ocean-going vessel with enough space for a 3-tonne whale and doesn't mind popping to Cornwall this evening to get in touch.

Yes, really.

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Light fades at Gonzo passes the Barrier

The crowds still lining the banks must be freezing - we have now retired to LEWIS Whale Watch HQ to monitor the news feeds.

Gonzo's flotilla has now passed the Thames Barrier and into the Thames Estuary.

Sky News seems to think the whale has no name. Now is the time to email them at news@sky.com and make your voice heard - SAVE GONZO!

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Passing the Millennium Dome

The barge has now reached the Millennium Dome, and is almost past the Isle of Dogs and into the final stretch before it reaches more open water. It won't be long now.

Experts are unsure how Gonzo has done being out of the water for so long.

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Some promising news!

Experts say Gonzo's condition is 'resonable' and the likelihood of his release is 'positive'.

They are looking into the logistics of getting him around to the south coast of England to release him in warmer waters.

Hang on in there G.

Tagged:

Belfast

Gonzo is doing well - the barge has just passed beneath London Bridge and past HMS Belfast.

There is little news about his health, however.

The beginning of a long journey

The barge has set off east - Gonzo seems to be doing ok so far. But we've got a long way to go - the barge is now level with Chelsea Bridge.

Rescuers are pouring water on the motionless whale to keep him safe.

He's down!

Gonzo has been lowered onto his bed on the deck of the rescue barge.

He's up!

Gonzo is now suspended in mid-air. He's being winched into the boat. Hang on in there Gonzo!

Stand by...

The sling has been passed underneath Gonzo. We are waiting for him to be hoisted onto the barge. The crowd holds its breath...

LEWIS Whale Watch RSS feed

LEWIS Whale Watch now has added RSS - subscribe here.

Gonzo now alongside rescue barge

The boats have towed Gonzo for about 20 minutes and have arrived level with the rescue barge. There is an inflatable bed waiting on the deck. Rescuers are preparing a sling to lift him from the water on to the deck of the ship.

Another comment from Sky News

"Whales are still being hunted by Japan in Norway in their thousands."

Gonzo's on the move

Gonzo is being moved on his inflatable pontoon by two boats alongside, towards a barge that he will be lifted on to.

The rescue effort is now fully underway. It's make or break for the brave visitor.

An expert comments on Sky News

"It would be good to see the UK government do something about the Japanese killing thousands of whales."

Reinforcements arriving

Bringing people together

View from the bank II

View from the bank

Hitching a lift

It has now been confirmed that Gonzo will be lifted onto a barge and transported down the river.

Police state

The police presence here is vast.

One policeman just told me the one good thing about the whale's plight is that "it has brought the people together".

Not good news

I just had a chat with a local news journalist that just came off the phone with the Zoological Society. There is still a high chance Gonzo will be "put to sleep".

Blood tests

Blood samples from the whale have been rushed to the Zoological Society.

Gonzo will be held in position for a couple of hours while the tests are done and the results analysed.

Police statement

The Met has just announced that the tide has turned and will rise quickly up the embankment. It has warned people, once again, to clear the foreshore.

Press association

The photographers circling in a boat have just given up their blankets to a rescuer to be used as wet towels to wrap Gonzo and keep him from drying out.

All together now - heave!

Around 30 people just lifted Gonzo out of the water for a moment, giving the crowds their first real glimpse of this massive mammal.

Urgent meeting

Now Gonzo is secured, there is a large group of people in wetsuits being briefed on the shore.

Discussing their next move? Or deciding the fate of our brave pal?

Tow me the way to go home

Crowd reaction here is calling for a new plan - now he's on the raft, tow him back to sea behind a boat!

It's an amazing sight - and the thousands of people here are discussing the events with total strangers.

Safety fleet

There are 11 boats now protecting the site of the whale rescue. Gonzo is now on the inflatable raft and being splashed with water by 16 rescuers who surround him.

Caught

Gonzo is now on an inflatable stretcher. There are thousands of people lining the south bank of the Thames. People with balconies have lent their homes to film crews and photographers.

Skycopter

Sky News has said that its helicopters aren't frightening the whale. But the noise is pretty loud from where we are.

We are now making our way to the site.

Restraining pontoon

Officials are unrolling an inflatable pontoon.

Holding pattern

Five rescuers are calming Gonzo down by gently placing their hands on him. He is now static in shallow water and surrounded.

Surgeons are about to make an assessment. There is talk of getting him onto a barge using a crane.

Gonzo's grounded

Officials have surrounded Gonzo. He's partially grounded. Contact's been made.

Helicopters are swarming over Whale Watch HQ.

Announcements to the public

The Metropolitan Police are making announcements to the hundreds of people trying to get down to the Thames foreshore, warning them to keep back. It's dangerous for people and could scare Gonzo out into deeper water.

Officials are encouraging him into shallow water, where he can be examined and - hopefully - rescued. This is the point at which they will make the difficult decision.

Gonzo's a boy!

We are 'reliably informed' Gonzo IS a male whale. Lucky guess by the LEWIS team.

He is currently being coaxed towards the shore by officials in multiple boats.

Gonzo resurfaces at 10am

Sky News spotted Gonzo again near Battersea Park at 10am this morning. Gonzo's currently half way between Battersea Bridge and Battersea Rail Bridge.

Experts are going to make the decision whether to attempt a rescue attempt in the next hour.

Apparently he's swimming quite well, albeit in the wrong direction.

No more news

Online news reports are now swinging wildly between stories about a 'sick, dying whale' that's 'hungry and disorientated' to news of the fact that he's now 'already out to sea' or 'an awe-inspiring and majestic sight'.

Is Gonzo OK? Or is he still in trouble?

All the background you need

For an ultra-detailed overview of the story, as well as loads of background detail (including in-depth diagrams of the species and a collection of all the pictures from today), check this out.

The BBC comes to LEWIS - full report

View the full video of the BBC talking to LEWIS about their experiences today here. (About 24 minutes in to the video.)

Gonzo's Making the News

Making the News does what we've all been thinking. We appreciate your support.

Boomerang?

Scientists say the wayward whale's name is "Boomerang".

Click here to read the full story. But bear in mind his name is Gonzo...

Friday, January 20, 2006

Jon Silk, Whale Watch editor, on the BBC

All at sea?

A TV expert just said Gonzo might be back out to sea already! Yay!

We're back

OK - so we got to Greenwich and not much was going on at all. A few members of the press were there, but nobody had seen it for some time.

So, we turned around and headed back to our temporary LEWIS Whale Watch HQ in Battersea.

According to the BBC it could be 'very distressed'. Actually, I'm not surprised, following the amount of excitement Gonzo has created. The last official sighting was at 6.20pm at Albert Bridge.

BBC Interactive is showing the LEWIS PR report - recorded in our office - on loop.

Eastender

Gonzo's apparently in Greenwich. This is fantastic news - it means he's miles closer to his goal of getting back out to sea. The tide's in his favour.

We've said it before and we'll say it again... GO GONZO GO!

Web searchers

Gonzo was last seen at 6.15pm just off Chelsea Bridge. Has anyone heard or read any other information regarding his whereabouts?

View from Chelsea Bridge

We're with the bikers on the south side of Chelsea Bridge. Either the wheelies and burnouts have scared Gonzo away, or he's slipped away from the authorities. Helicopters are circling.

Poem for Gonzo II - keep up the good work!

We now have 80 people who are supporting the SAVE GONZO campaign by commenting on our blog.

Keep the comments coming and we'll make sure the folks down at the river hear all about it. Just comment on this post and let us know what you think.

But for now, another poem for Gonzo from one of our readers:

Oh Gonzo we feel like we know you,
Swim swim as best you can

You know what you have to do
all of London is your fan

Gonzo is in trouble -
we must not let him die

If only we could put him in a bubble
Why Gonzo? Oh why?

'We must save Gozno' we say,
don't let them fill him with lead

At the end of the day
Gonzo is dead.

Stay in touch

To contact us while we are out in the field, you can email us.

Testing the equipment

This is a test message to see if our mobile devices are working.

LEWIS Whale Watch goes mobile

The LEWIS Whale Watch team is heading down to Battersea to find Gonzo.

Stay tuned for more posts - we will be blogging from the scene.

Eyewitness photo - media helicopter over Battersea Park

Eyewitness photo - Supporters line the bank

Gonzo in 'distressed condition'

Rescuers on BBC News 24 say Gonzo is in a 'distressed condition' and they 'don't hold out much hope'.

However, the rescue operation will continue...

Breaking eyewitness news

A recent eyewitness has been down to the site of the whale - near Albert Bridge. She doesn't hold out much hope for Gonzo.

She says: "It wasn't a pretty sight. He wasn't really moving. I don't hold out much hope for Gonzo's survival - even though the crowds were cheering. Lots of families has brought their small children out to cheer him along."

Are YOU going down to visit Gonzo?

Mixed reports from LEWIS Whale Watch followers

Some comments from the thousands of people that have been visiting LEWIS Whale Watch and emailing the team:

"Our whales are doing strange things lately. Fin whales in the English Channel earlier this week as well as fin whales only a few metres off the coast of West Cork three weeks ago. Let us know if you would like more info." Wendy Slocum, Whale Watch West Cork

"Look, I'm a zoologist, and Gonzo is fine. They just gotta get those motor boats away, that's the first thing."

"Poor wee chap. Let him do his thing. Save Gonzo by not interfering with him. Let nature take its course."

"Surely with the news coverage and the public interest we as a nation can save this whale?"

"If they can get him back to the open sea, or back on track, without causing him any further distress, then please do it. But let's not be trigger happy, just because it's getting dark."

"I hate the pompous pratishness that becomes evident. The so-called specialists making fools of themselves. Without any proof they come out and say 'it must be ill', 'we need to anesthetise it', 'we must destroy it'. Sorry, but I am a scientist as well and there is no reason make such affirmations or presumptions without any supporting evidence."

Stay in touch, people. Let's SAVE GONZO.

Terrible news

There is talk on the news about 'destroying' Gonzo if this goes on any longer.

SAVE GONZO.

London - and the world - this is your chance.

Vote SAVE GONZO by adding your comment to this post. LEWIS will turn this into a petition a deliver right to where it will make the most difference.

Let's tell the authorities we want them to find another way!

VOTE SAVE GONZO.

Extreme close-up

Reuters has got hold of a fantastic close-up picture of Gonzo - check it out.

We think it must be from the people we've seen frantically rowing a small inflatable raft up and down the Thames.

Fighting the darkness

The view from Millbank Tower is waning as darkness falls over London. Rest assured we'll be venturing out shortly to try and track Gonzo from the river banks...

Gonzo's vital statistics

Name: Gonzo
Type: Northern Bottle-Nosed Whale
Length: 17 feet
Weight: 5 tonnes

Poem for Gonzo

An anonymous whalewatcher has sent us this heartfelt poem, dedicated to Gonzo.

Gonzo is lost in River
I hope he is okay, he gave us a shiver
When he lost his way

Lets hope he gets out soon
and swims his way home before tonights moon
Leaves Gonzo to roam.

Whale Watcher Mark Street captured

Latest location - Battersea Park

The tide has turned?

The whale is now level with Battersea park, having swum a mile the wrong way.

The tide has turned - this should help our intrepid pal make his way back the the Thames Estuary, and the sea.

Bad news - Gonzo's stopped moving

The whale has stopped moving close to Chelsea Embankment again.

We are watching from our offices and keep readers posted when he starts moving.

The BBC arrives at LEWIS

The BBC has arrived and are interviewing us about our tracking of Gonzo. Tune in!

Gonzo's moving east - this is a good sign!

Reports suggest Gonzo is moving east - this is GREAT NEWS! With any luck, he will be passing the LEWIS offices again soon.

KEEP SWIMMING GONZO!

LEWIS picture 15

LEWIS picture 14

Imminent rescue attempt?

Sky has reported that a rescue attempt may be on the cards due to the fact that once the tide comes in the currents will get too strong to the tired whale.

A whale worth his salt

According to reports, the Thames has an unusually high salt content for this time of year, leading to multiple sightings of porpoises and a density of sprats so far unheard of.

This is the first time a whale has ventured this far into the Thames.

In deep water?

According to the BBC, officials have begun to coordinate attempts to remove any harmful obstacles that may get in Gonzo's way, such as debris, discarded anchors or the ubiquitous abandoned shopping trolleys.

Gonzo's getting on a bit

Rumour has it that Gonzo's pretty old. He must be getting tired now and has a full 40 miles to swim before he gets back to the safety of open water.

Gonzo spot enhanced: whale locator added

LEWIS picture 13

LEWIS picture 12



Current Gonzo spot - Chelsea Embankment

LEWIS picture 11

He's back!

After a period of worrying silence, Gonzo has surfaced again near some moored ships near Chelsea Embankment.

Gonzo classified

Gonzo has been officially confirmed to be a Northern Bottle-Nosed Whale.

For more information on this amazing creature, click here.

Whale watcher Mark Street reports

Fresh from his report on Sky News, LEWIS Associate Director Mark Street tells us:

"It was very worrying to see that the whale almost beached. This is exactly what happened earlier, and what we feared might happen. The police appeared to be really nervous and backed off as soon as they realised this was a danger."

LEWIS picture 10

LEWIS picture 9

LEWIS picture 8

LEWIS picture 7

LEWIS picture 6

LEWIS picture 5

LEWIS picture 4

LEWIS picture 3

LEWIS picture 2

EXCLUSIVE: First picture from LEWIS

Another great pic, this time from The Times

The Times has got a great picture, complete with seagulls.

Back downstream

Gonzo has reached Albert Bridge, being carried downstream by the current. News reports suggest it is tiring and there are sightings of more blood in the water.

Hundreds of people have gathered.

Report from Liz Carrington

LEWIS photograper Liz Carrington reports from Battersea Bridge:

"The whale was stuck on the bank, in shallow water, in front of Battersea Power Station. Three men in yellow jackets waded into the water and tried to coax it back into the water by splashing it. When it returned to deeper water, everyone cheered."

Save the whale

Experts are calling for the whale to be removed from the water, as it will find it difficult to get back out past the Thames Barrier. Could this be possible?

Pictures to follow...

Intrepid LEWIS photographer Liz Carrington has just returned to the LEWIS offices in Millbank Tower covered in mud. She has been down at site of the whale's struggle with shallow water taking exclusive pictures.

Check back as they will be posted shortly.

Terrible news - blood in the water

LEWIS media watchers report some very obvious blood in the water.

Back in deep water

The whale has turned round and is back in deep water.

Go Gonzo go!

Battersea whale's home

The whale - which the staff at LEWIS PR have nicknamed 'Gonzo' - seems to be stuck in shallow water near to Battersea Bridge.

LEWIS whale watcher Mark Street live on Sky

LEWIS Associate Director Mark Street is contacted by Sky News for an exclusive live interview. Mark explains what we are seeing as the public becomes worried that the whale is moving too close to the shore.

First pictures filter through

The BBC gets a great picture from a passer by.

Sounds like...

The office wonders what the whale could sound like...

Perhaps a bit like this?

Origin of the species

Sky News has confirmed - via an expert from London's Natural History Museum - that the whale is a Pilot Whale.

It is the first time this species of whale has entered the Thames since records began.

Whale meet again

The whale seems to have accelerated upstream.

Followed by the police cruiser, it's gone upmarket and is now level with Cheyne Walk.

Whale takes to the Sky

The Skycopter is covering the whale for a live spot on the news - we can't see the helicopter itself.

Top tip-off to the UK media

The whale returns to the Tate Gallery pontoon - great news for LEWIS PR as our offices are directly opposite.

At this point, we tip off the BBC and send our in-house photographer down to take some shots.

To Battersea and back

The whale, still followed by the boats, appears to be confused. It almost gets as far as Battersea Power Station, only to run around and head back to Lambeth Bridge.

It then stops, and spends time by the bridge.

Police back off - whale almost beaches

The whale is being followed by three boats - two police and one that looks like an RNLI lifeguard boat. At one point, the boats had to back off suddenly, as there were fears that the whale could beach on the rough shingle by the edge of the river.

The first encounter

At 12.08 we spotted the whale as it drew close to the Tate Gallery jetty on Millbank. From our vantage point on the 22nd floor of Millbank Tower, we could clearly see the whale as it battled the Thames currents.

Naturally, the whole office ran to the river-facing windows of our building to get a better view.