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Crowds continue to flock to the banks of the River Thames at Gravesend to catch a glimpse of 'Benny' the Beluga whale

People are still flocking to the banks of the River Thames to see 'Benny' the Beluga whale.

More than a week after he was first spotted just off Gravesend, the mammal is still delighting people with his antics in the water.

The creature was first seen by two birdwatchers last Tuesday, September 25 and within hours helicopters from national media outlets were at the scene filming the unusual sight.

Benny the Beluga pops his head out for watchers as a ship passes by. Picture: Fraser Gray
Benny the Beluga pops his head out for watchers as a ship passes by. Picture: Fraser Gray

Consultant ecologist and ornithologist, Dave Andrews, was one of the first people to spot the creature.

He tweeted: “Can’t believe I’m writing this, no joke – Beluga in the Thames off Coalhouse Fort.”

Journalists and photographers descended upon the riverside near Shorne and since then Gravesend has been buzzing with people wanting to catch a glimpse of the creature.

Members of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue have been monitoring the animal since it arrived.

Photographers flocked to see Benny by the riverside. Picture: Fraser Gray
Photographers flocked to see Benny by the riverside. Picture: Fraser Gray

The organisation, based in Uckfield, is the UK’s largest marine animal rescue organisation and was the lead the attempt to rescue the whale which got stranded in the capital in January 2006.

Director Mark Stevens, 61, who lives in Wigmore, said: “We have people there keeping an eye on it and it seems to be swimming strongly. People need to keep away from it.

“It should be able to feed quite well as there are a lot of mackerel in the river at the moment.

“We will continue to monitor it and I would say its even rarer than the other Thames whale, its a real Arctic animal.”

Benny surfaces - picture by Fraser Gray (4518098)
Benny surfaces - picture by Fraser Gray (4518098)

Gravesend photographer Fraser Gray has been also been keeping an eye on the whale and has photographed it many times over the past week.

Its presence has made headlines around the world.

Mr Gray of West Street, said: "Benny seems to spend the mornings around the Ship and Lobster pub moving over to the drill ship around lunchtime then around late afternoons to the barges at Shorne.

"He then rests near the red barges over at Tilbury overnight, he is swimming strongly and has delighted the onlookers on the Promenade."

People flocked from across the country to try and spot the Beluga Whale. (4518106)
People flocked from across the country to try and spot the Beluga Whale. (4518106)

Lizzie Brown, 39, landlady at the Ship and Lobster pub in Mark Lane, close to where he's been spotted, said she's seen more customers through the door.

She added: "There’s been a lot of journalists, including some from Australian and Canadian media."

Conservationists are continuing to monitor the creature amid fears it could become distressed, but so far Benny, as he has been nick-named, is said to be swimming strongly and feeding well.

Over the weekend the whale seemed to make a couple of friends when he was joined joined by a two porpoises.

Benny popped his head out of the Rvier Thames for onlookers pver the weekend, Picture: Fraser Gray
Benny popped his head out of the Rvier Thames for onlookers pver the weekend, Picture: Fraser Gray

Mr Stevens, added: “The last I heard he had teamed up with two porpoises, which means he must have food otherwise they wouldn’t hang around.

“We just have to wait for him to go.

"All the while he’s got food he will stay. We have checked him and his body condition looks fine and his behaviour is normal.

“If we start seeing anything other than that we will have to think again.”

The British Divers Marine Life Rescue were pictured at the scene. Picture: Jason Arthur
The British Divers Marine Life Rescue were pictured at the scene. Picture: Jason Arthur

Port of London Authority has issued a restricted navigation notice on all non-essential vessels and any crafts in the water must keep speed to a minimum and keep at least 100m from Benny.

Mr Stevens continued: “The authority are making sure no one breaks that with radar and they have a physical presence on the water.

“I watched Beluga whales swim in shallower rivers in Seattle this year. They are used to swimming in water this deep.

“All the time it’s got food it can cope in the river.

“It’s a free swimming whale doing what a free swimming whale does but it’s great that so many people get to see it.”


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