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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.

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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...