- While it is not common for whales to save humans, it is common for whales to save other creatures because they are selfless to other species.
- This article features a video of a humpback whale rescuing a human from a tiger shark.
- Still turning her head toward her boat, the whale steered her forward, freeing her from danger.
Whale scientist Nan Hauser has had the one-in-a-billion experience, and even she realizes it sounds too good to be true. After all, it seems too good to be true when you read about a humpback whale saving a diver from a large tiger shark.
However, footage of her in the water and her interviews suggest that something special happened that day. Hauser is located off the coast of Rarotonga, the largest of the Cook Islands in the Pacific Ocean. While she was observing one, one of the humpbacks looked at her and started walking towards her.
Realizing she needed to keep her distance, Hauser stayed near the surface. The humpback kept coming closer until she reached out to touch its head. When she touched the whale’s head, it started pushing her back.
In any other situation, Hauser would be in danger. “I could easily have been killed by this whale,” she said. A flapping fin or a sudden movement of the whale’s head could kill her.
Despite trying to keep her at a distance, the whale kept trying to tuck her under its pectoral fins. She tried to reach the surface despite being cut by barnacles on the whale’s skin. That’s when the whale lifted her out of the water so she could see her boat and the rest of the crew nearby.
When she was back underwater, the whale was still leading her by the head. Fearing she would be swallowed by the whale, she clung to the huge creature as it continued to carry her towards her boat. That’s when she saw the mammal’s eyes widen.
Following the whale’s line of sight, she saw another whale flapping its tail in the water, a defensive maneuver. It’s also when she sees something no one wants to see: the biggest tiger shark she’s ever seen in her life.
She panicked, but the whale just flipped her over and took Hauser to her boat. Video shows Hauser surfacing and climbing into her boat. She turned and said, “I love you too. I love you too.”
Hauser admitted that if she had been told the story, she would have thought it was made up. However, her friend and fellow scientist, Robert Pitman, wrote an article about how humpback whales display altruism toward other creatures. She thinks the whale saved her on purpose because it sensed the danger.
More than a year later, Hauser was called to the port of Rarotonga to investigate a whale in the water. She noticed the whale had the same notch on its tail as the one that rescued her. The whale came by her boat and that’s when she saw its distinctive head scar.
When she returned to the water, the whale nuzzled her, drawing a happier ending to the sweet story. This may be the only documented experience of how a humpback rescued a diver from a shark.
Where are humpback whales found?
Humpback whales can live in all oceans around the world. In fact, they migrate great distances each year and have the longest migrations of any mammal on Earth. In fact, many populations swim a staggering 5,000 miles from warm tropical breeding waters to cooler, more productive foraging waters.
Although humpback whales are found throughout the Southern Hemisphere, they are mainly found in the North Pacific Ocean. They are also common in southeastern Alaska, Prince William Sound, and British Columbia. They have even been found in Hawaii and the Gulf of California.
How long do humpback whales live?
Humpback whales can live a very long time. In fact, some of the oldest whales live to be 80 to 90 years old. Some of the oldest humpback whales have been reported to live to be 100 years old. Humpback whales can live close to 100 years, while bowhead whales live much longer, reaching an astonishing 200 years!
Do whales often save swimmers?
While this appears to be the first documented instance of a humpback saving a swimmer’s life, they are known to be selfless towards other species. There are many documented cases of humpback whales going to great lengths to help other creatures. Several other marine species are known to assist swimmers in distress, most notably dolphins.
Watching other shark encounters get too close for comfort:
If you want to see other examples of animal-human altruism or close calls, we recommend you check out the following options:
- Incredible drone footage captures woman paddling with killer whale
- Lucky tourists get to play with baby gray whales during their trip
- What does a blue whale sound like? What do their voices mean?
I am broadly interested in how human activities influence the ability of wildlife to persist in the modified environments that we create.
Specifically, my research investigates how the configuration and composition of landscapes influence the movement and population dynamics of forest birds. Both natural and human-derived fragmenting of habitat can influence where birds settle, how they access the resources they need to survive and reproduce, and these factors in turn affect population demographics. Most recently, I have been studying the ability of individuals to move through and utilize forested areas which have been modified through timber harvest as they seek out resources for the breeding and postfledging phases. As well I am working in collaboration with Parks Canada scientists to examine in the influence of high density moose populations on forest bird communities in Gros Morne National Park. Many of my projects are conducted in collaboration or consultation with representatives of industry and government agencies, seeking to improve the management and sustainability of natural resource extraction.
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