The whale on the barge
Thames Whale Has Died
Updated: 19:42, Saturday January 21, 2006
The Thames whale has died while being transported on a barge out of the River Thames to deeper seas.
See Sky News for the latest live footage.
The whale was being taken to an area off the north Kent coast for release when it suffered convulsions.
The whale is lifted on to the barge by a crane
A spokesman for the charity group organising its rescue from the river in central London said the bottle-nosed whale went into convulsions and died around 7pm.
Chairman of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue group Alan Knight said: "We had a phone call from the vet saying that it had started convulsing and while he was on the phone it died.
"It was still about two hours away from the planned release place."
Another spokesman, Tony Woodley, told Sky News: "It is such a shame and I know that so many people in the UK and around the world have been watching this.
"It is such a great shame that on this occasion we have not been successful."
The whale's condition had deteriorated after being lifted on to the barge and vets had become "pessimisitic" about its chances of survival.
The 15ft-long northern bottle-nosed whale became stranded in shallow water near Chelsea shortly before midday.
A team of rescuers surrounded it near the river's south bank near Battersea Bridge.
They put inflatable pontoons in place to support it before lifting it on to the Crossness barge with a crane.
It was first seen in central London on Friday making its way up river as far as Chelsea.
Thousands of people gathered on both banks of the Thames and on bridges to see the mammal.
Northern bottle-nosed whales normally live in the north Atlantic and can be seen off northern Britain and Ireland in the summer.
It was believed to be the first sighting of the species on the Thames since records began in 1913.