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RNLI photo of lifeboat speeding in mist near London's Tower Bridge shared 25,000 times

A crewman challenged Twitter users to 'see how far the photo could travel'

A week after Cancer Research UK receieved millions of pounds of donations following the spontaneous #nomakeupselfie social media campaign, the RLNI lifeboat charity said it was "astonished" when its photo was shared on Twitter tens of thousands of times.

Crewman Matt Leat shared the atmospheric photo over the weekend, featuring his colleagues aboard a lifeboat speeding past London’s Tower Bridge.

The image was accompanied by the message: "We have been set a challenge to see how far this picture can travel on twitter - A RT is easy and costs nothing!"

By Tuesday, it had been shared almost 25,000 times, as retweets popped up as far afield as Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and New Zealand.

Matt, who volunteers at London’s Tower lifeboat station by Waterloo Bridge on the River Thames, said: "My iphone hasn’t been able to keep up with the twitter alerts due to the phenomenal response. When I posted the photo I thought it might get a couple of hundred retweets but I’m staggered at how popular it has proved in just a couple of days.

"Retweeting the photo has been a way for people to show their support for the RNLI.  We’re a charity made up of volunteers who risk their lives to save others on a daily basis. People like to show their support for that and we’re really grateful to them."

Matt added: "The RNLI isn’t funded by Government, we rely on public donations to operate so anything that raises awareness of our charity is a good thing."

The RNLI provides a 24-hour search and rescue service in the UK and Ireland from 236 lifeboat stations, and the social media storm comes after a man attempting to jumping from a bridge inadvertently saved a man by accidentally alerting the RNLI.