I was going to write about working memory but a whale got trapped in the River Thames in London this week and it attracted lots of attention, including mine.
Much effort and manpower was devoted to the whale’s rescue. Several Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) members had to physically dislodge the whale from the lock in Richmond. Divers from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) got involved and fire crews were at the scene. At some point a Port of London authority (PLA) employee hosed the animal down. Even amidst wind and rain, crowds gathered to watch the whale’s predicament and helicopters flew overhead. One person got in a kayak to get a better look at the whale.
Unfortunately, after being freed from the lock, the whale swam in the wrong direction, away from the sea, and got beached against a wall.
At which point the national co-ordinator of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue service, Julia Cable, summed up the whale’s chances:
“Its condition is deteriorating. It’s not acting the way it did last night. It’s basically lost any energy that it had left in it. It’s also got another stranding injury, which, along with ones from yesterday, all adds up really.
“We’re just going to make it a little bit more comfortable and we’re going to have a veterinarian come down and take another look at it, and then they’ll make a decision. It’s not looking like we’ll be able to refloat the animal.”
Alas, despite the efforts of all the professionals and the will of the crowd, the whale had to be euthanised.
A vet performed the deed at the river’s edge. The Guardian newspaper reported crowds ‘tinged with sadness.’ Photographs showed flowers placed on its dead body.
What made the whole thing more poignant was that it was a whale calf. A baby, a youngster.
So far, so understandable.