The Thames, which flows from Gloucestershire via London to its estuary between Essex and Kent, is England’s longest river and the second-longest river in the United Kingdom. Researchers with property development firm Barratt Homes said: “There’s a lot more to the Thames than meets the eye! We took a deep dive to reveal the sea life that has been spotted in the river, as well as the wackiest items that have been discovered under its surface.”
The team added: “Visiting the Thames is a perfect place to spot marine life, with the river being home to everything from whales, dolphins, seals, crabs, and eels.”
Besides fish, the researchers explained, the most commonly spotted sea creatures in the Thames are whales — which have been observed in the river since 2006.
One was given the nickname “Benny” by London residents, and was seen to roam up and down the river for three whole months before finding his way back out to sea.
Dolphins were first recorded in the Thames in 2018, with the marine mammal spotted near Barnes Bridge in West London. The following year, a harbour porpoise was found in the same location.
Moving from extant to extinct life, the Thames has yielded the fossilised tooth of a megalodon, a 92-feet-long shark that menaced the seas some 1.5 million years ago — as well as a skull segment from a 30,000-year-old woolly rhinoceros.
On the archaeological front, items recovered from the river have included a roughly 5,000-year-old bone that belonged to a Stone Age human who would have stood at around 5 feet 7 inches tall.
From near Putney Bridge, meanwhile archaeologists identified a small Roman-era token known as a “Spintria” which some experts believe were used to obtain entry to brothels.
These token typically featured numbers on one side and sex-themed motifs such as a winged phallus on the reverse.
Finally, the researchers also turned their attention to those waste items that end up in the Thames — many of which, they said, could have been recycled instead.
According to a report from Thames21, the most common form of litter in the river are wet wipes, which when mixed with mud or sludge form slimy layers called “fatbergs”.
One fatberg on the Thames, the experts said, was found in 2019 to have developed over the course of four years to be 4.6 feet high and covering the equivalent of four tennis courts.
The three worst parts of the river for wet wipe build-ups are Hammersmith Bridge Southside, Fulham and near Battersea Bridge.
Discarded plastic bags are the most concentrated at Newcastle Drawdock, around the O2 Waterfront Apartments in Greenwich and at Gallions Point.
The worst areas for floating waste on the Thames in general, however, are Small Profits, Queen Caroline Drawdock and Crabtree Wharf.
The full findings of the team’s investigation into the Thames can be read on the Barratt Homes website.