Leading article: Whale-watching

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The Independent Online

The heavens may open, the sewers overflow and the Thames freeze over, but it takes the sight of a stricken animal to excite the passion, and compassion, of Londoners. And not just any animal. A whale the like of which has not been seen on Old Man Thames since records began in 1913, wounded, disorientated, in danger of its life, struggling its way upriver past Parliament and the MI6 headquarters at Vauxhall, threatening to beach at any moment.

Tut, the cynics say. There have been plenty of aquatic curiosities. Why only 10 years ago a minke whale came by. Phooey, say the people of the north and south-west - we get bottlenose whales beaching themselves all the time on our shores. Mmm, say the Japanese restaurateurs.

Enough of that, say we. Think of the poor mammal, far from home, without its bearings, losing blood, sensing the ebb flow of the tide. Time for rescue and, if that fails, national mourning.