Humpback whales are the gentle giants of the ocean. Weighing 79,000 pounds on average, they’re a favorite of whale watchers because of their regular visits to the surface.
Despite extensive research, there is still a lot that biologists don’t know about humpback whales. Every interaction is an opportunity to learn something new about these majestic mammals.
Biologist Nan Hauser believes she witnessed something never recorded before. While diving off the coast of Rarotonga in the Cook Islands last October, she claimed to have discovered proof of their intuitive nature to protect other species, including humans.
Best of all, she caught the entire interaction on camera.
Biologist Nan Hauser believes she witnessed evidence of whales’ intuitive nature to protect other species while diving off the Cook Islands.
Hauser has been studying whales for nearly three decades, and said she’d never seen this kind of behavior before. The humpback whale she was studying started to push Hauser with its fin and nose.
She told the Independent she has never encountered a whale so intent on “putting me on his head, or belly, or back, or, most of all, trying to tuck me under his huge pectoral fin.”
“I wasn’t sure what the whale was up to when he approached me, and it didn’t stop pushing me around for over 10 minutes. It seemed like hours. I was a bit bruised up,” she said.
Hauser said she was afraid that the situation would become a “deadly encounter” as the creature continued to harass her. The other members of their team abandoned their drone footage because they didn’t want to record her death.
While interacting with a humpback whale, the mammal began to push her aggressively with its fin and nose.
Hauser says she did her best to remain calm despite her fear.
“I didn’t want to panic, because I knew that he would pick up on my fear,” she said.
Before the humpback whale approached her, she thought she’d spotted another whale in the distance. In reality, it was a 15-foot tiger shark.
Tiger sharks are among the deadliest sharks in the world. They are one of the few species of sharks that regularly notch double-digit unprovoked attacks on humans annually.
Once she realized that she was in imminent danger, the biologist was able to put together what the whale was doing.
“I’ve spent the past 28 years protecting whales, and in the moment, I didn’t even realize that they were protecting me,” she said.
The humpback whale was trying to usher Hauser to safety from a 15-foot tiger shark lurking nearby.
Humpback whales have been known to protect other animals from safety in the past. There is recorded evidence of them hiding seals under their pectoral fins to keep them from killer whales.
“They truly display altruism – sometimes at the risk of losing their own lives,” said Hauser.
Once Hauser was able to make it back to the surface, she joined her dive team and warned the other divers of the presence of a shark. Then the whale gave her a memorable, final goodbye.
The whale came to the surface, blew some water out of its blowhole, and descended back into the water.
“I love you too! I love you!” Hauser shouted as the whale disappeared into the ocean.