Rescue efforts: whale beached in Ipswich

VIDEO Marine experts are attempting to rescue a whale after it beached itself near the Orwell Bridge.The rescue attempt was launched after a whale entered the River Orwell and headed towards Ipswich earlier today.The first sightings were reported about 2pm today and the coastguard was notified.

MARINE experts were today coordinating a rescue attempt after a whale entered the River Orwell and headed towards Ipswich.

The first sightings were reported about 2pm today and the coastguard was notified.

The report said that people on a yacht sailing near the Orwell bridge had seen what was thought to be a pilot whale in the water under the bridge.

The British Divers Marine Life Rescue group dispatched a representative to investigate the reports and group mammal medic Andy Hollis confirmed the sighting of the mammal at about 3pm.

Further sightings were reported at about 3.30pm, once again directly under the bridge, before the whale swam out of sight for about an hour.

The rescue group sent experts to the river and two members were taken aboard a local yacht from Fox's Marina. The whale was spotted soon after close to the West Bank Terminal at Ipswich port.

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After getting a closer look at the whale, one of the experts said the whale appeared to be a northern bottlenose - the same species as the whale which became stranded in the Thames last year and later died.

It was not initially clear if the whale, thought to be about five metres, was ill or had lost its way.

The rescue group mobilised a team with a boat, generators, pontoons and lighting equipment in case the whale beached itself or became stranded and a rescue operation needed to be mounted tonight.

Michelle Mills, from Sorrel Close, Ipswich, who saw the whale near the Orwell bridge, said: “I saw something dark coming out of the water. Then I realised it was the whale.”

At about 5pm more experts from the BDMLR group arrived at Fox's Marina, ready to board a local yacht to get a closer look at the whale. They were acting on reports it was headed towards Ipswich dock.

Andy Hollis, a trained BDMLR marine mammal medic, was the first to follow up sightings of the whale.

He said: “I was called to investigate the reports that a pilot whale had been spotted in the Orwell. We spotted the whale in the water under the bridge but had trouble at first being able to tell what species it was.

“The whale seemed to be circling in the same stretch of water near the bridge for about an hour before heading closer to Ipswich dock.

“On closer inspection one of our experts said it was thought the whale was a northern bottlenose, which was a concern because they shouldn't be anywhere near Ipswich.”

Did you see the whale in the Orwell? Call The Evening Star newsdesk on 01473 324788 or e-mail starnews@eveningstar.co.uk.

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