A small whale has been freed after it was left stranded along the River Thames in southwest London for several hours in front of scores of baffled bystanders.
Hundreds gathered at Richmond Lock and Weir on Sunday evening after the whale — believed to be a minke between three to four metres long — became stuck.
Videos showed the whale being hosed down by a man, while a vet performed a check-up at the river's edge, before the Royal National Lifeboat Institute arrived at the scene to cheers at around 9pm.
A witness told the PA news agency that "quite the crowd" watched as the attempted rescue took place.
"Everyone here is just hoping they get it out," said 20-year-old Jake Manketo.
"We couldn't believe our eyes when we first saw the poor fella, not every day something like this happens in Richmond."
"It was almost disbelief and shock to see a whale," another witness told CNN.
The whale was stuck on the lock's boat rollers, as emergency staff worked to set it free.
Fire crews were pictured at the scene, along with the British Divers Marine Life Rescue service.
Emergency services free whale after four hours of work
After four hours and working into the night, crews were able to free the whale by placing a yellow float around it and moving it to safer waters.
It is believed the whale was first spotted at midday a few kilometres up the river near Barnes Bridge.
A spokesman for the Port of London Authority, which owns and operates the lock, said: "At around 7pm on Sunday, a small whale, approximately 3-4m long, believed to be a minke whale, became stranded at Richmond Lock and Weir.
"PLA staff have attempted to assist the whale with water along with British Divers Marine Life Rescue.
"The whale is still alive and the Metropolitan Police are working to keep the public away from the water's edge."
He said the situation was "not good", though there was no "immediate danger" to the whale.
Minke whales are the smallest of the great whales, growing to about 10m long.
They can usually be found throughout the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Their range extends from the ice edge in the Arctic during the summer to near the equator during winter.
The lock is situated between Teddington and Richmond, comprising three vertical steel gates suspended from a footbridge.
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