Home   Gravesend   News   Article

Hessy the River Thames Humpback whale died after being hit by a ship, scientists confirm

Scientists have confirmed Hessy the Humpback whale died after being hit by a ship.

A post mortem on the creature, which surfaced in the River Thames on Monday, has been carried out by a team from the Zoological Society of London's (ZSL) Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP).

ZSL Cetacean Stranding Investigation Programme examining the deceased humpback whale body. Picture: Rob Deaville (19055675)
ZSL Cetacean Stranding Investigation Programme examining the deceased humpback whale body. Picture: Rob Deaville (19055675)

They conclude that the 8.37-metre-long juvenile female whale - who was removed from the water near Greenhithe on Tuesday - was struck by a ship, which was the likely cause of death.

As well as finding a large would on the underside of her head, they discovered she had a fractured jaw.

Internal investigations revealed Hessy was 'nutritionally compromised' but had no evidence of plastic ingestion.

They found previous 'interactions with humans' had left the mammal with scars on the dorsal fin and tail.

Rob Deaville, ZSL's CSIP project manager said: "ZSL experts from the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) carried out a detailed post-mortem examination yesterday on the humpback whale that had been found dead in the Thames near Greenhithe on the evening of Tuesday, October 8.

"ZSL’s examination revealed that it was an 8.37metre-long juvenile female, had no evidence of recent feeding and was nutritionally compromised.

The team found a large wound on her head. (19055760)
The team found a large wound on her head. (19055760)

"The whale also had a heavy burden of parasites within the intestine, and no evidence of plastic ingestion was found.

"There was also evidence of historical entanglement or other interactions with human activity, with linear scars on the dorsal fin (located on the back of the animal) and tail flukes.

"The main finding was a large wound on the underside of the head, associated with a fracture along the length of one of the mandibles (lower jaw).

"Traces of blood clots around the fractured jaw and haemorrhage around the cut/torn surfaces indicate that the damage occurred before death and it was the team’s opinion that the injuries were most likely a result of shipstrike and this is considered to be the primary cause of death.

"It’s certainly possible that the whale was struck outside of the Thames and already had these injuries whilst it was seen swimming within the river at the beginning of the week - further test of tissues taken during the examination are ongoing and may shed further light on the likely timescale around the injuries.

Hessy the Humpback was lifted by port authorities in Gravesend after being towed from Greenhithe. Photo Credit: Steve Potter
Hessy the Humpback was lifted by port authorities in Gravesend after being towed from Greenhithe. Photo Credit: Steve Potter

"This examination was very much a collaborative effort and could not have happened without the considerable support and efforts of colleagues from Port of London Authority and British Divers Marine Life Rescue."

The humpback was first spotted coming up for air on Sunday night between Crayford Ness and the Queen Elizabeth II bridge, Dartford.

But a day later it was seen lifeless floating near Greenhithe.

It was removed from the river yesterday when a team managed to get a rope around it and lift it from the water.

Read more: All the latest news from Gravesend


More by this author


Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More