Humpback whale ‘protects’ diver from nearby tiger shark

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Source: Cater News Agency

The whale pushed biologist Nan Hauser with his head and his mouth, tucked her under its pectoral fin – even lifted the biologist out of the water on one occasion.

This is the heart-stopping moment a giant 50,000-pound humpback whale protected an unsuspecting snorkeler from a STiger Shark by pushing her through the water.

The stunning video Nan Hauser and her team were able to capture – including point-of-view footage – show how the whale pushed whale biologist Ms. Hauser with his head and his mouth.

The whale tucked her under its pectoral fin – and even lifted the biologist out of the water on one occasion – which cannot be seen in the clip.

Nan Hauser, 63, believes it is proof of whale’s intuitive nature to protect other species of animal – including humans – something she believes has never been captured on film.

The 50,000-pound humpback whale took it upon itself to push the snorkeler through the water (Image: Caters News Agency)
The 50,000-pound humpback whale took it upon itself to push the snorkeler through the water (Image: Caters News Agency)

Though the footage shows the whale biologist making contact with the giant mammal, touching these animals is something that Ms Hauser is very strict about never encouraging; the whale was the one forcefully making direct contact with her, she said.

Ms Hauser added: “I never touch the whales that I study unless they are sick or stranded on the beach.

“In my head, I was a bit amused since I write Rules and Regulations about whale harassment – and here I was being harassed by a whale”

Ms Hauser, who lives on the Cook Islands, said: “I wasn’t sure what the whale was up to when he approached me, and it didn’t stop pushing me around for over ten minutes. It seemed like hours. I was a bit bruised up.

Nan Hauser believes the giant animals have an intuitive nature' (Image: Caters News Agency)
Nan Hauser believes the giant animals have an intuitive nature' (Image: Caters News Agency)

“I’ve spent 28 years underwater with whales, and have never had a whale so tactile and so insistent on putting me on his head, or belly, or back, or, most of all, trying to tuck me under his huge pectoral fin.

“I tried to get away from him for fear that if he rammed me too hard, or hit me with his flippers or tail, that would break my bones and rupture my organs. If he held me under his pectoral fin, I would have drowned.”

“I didn’t want to panic, because I knew that he would pick up on my fear.

“I stayed calm to a point but was sure that it was most likely going to be a deadly encounter.

“I feel a very close kinship with animals, so despite my trepidation, I tried to stay calm and figure out how to get away from him.

“I never took my eyes off him which is why I didn’t see the shark right away.”

The moment, Nan, 63, is perhaps proof of whales wanting to protect other species of animal (Image: Caters News Agency)
The moment, Nan, 63, is perhaps proof of whales wanting to protect other species of animal (Image: Caters News Agency)

Ms. Hauser had heard of the altruistic behavior of humpback whales before – protecting their young, other species of whales, seals, and dolphins – but scientists have never seen humpbacks actually protecting humans.

“There is a published scientific paper about humpbacks protecting other species of animals, by Robert Pitman.

“For instance, they hide seals under their pectoral fins to protect them from killer whales.”

“They truly display altruism – sometimes at the risk of losing their own lives.”

Dolphins have been known to exhibit protective behavior and many stories have been told.

Nan Hauser was amazed to watch the whale protect the snorkler from the shark (Image: Nan Hauser)
Nan Hauser was amazed to watch the whale protect the snorkler from the shark (Image: Nan Hauser)

Ms. Hauser had never experienced such an event in person with a humpback, or seen footage in the past 28 years of studying whales. For over 10 minutes, Ms. Hauser said, she was focused on the whale, unaware of the shark nearby.

The biologist now hopes to share the footage that she and her team were able to capture, in order to expand research and awareness of such actions from whales. This is the first documented case where a humpback whale has protected a human from a huge tiger shark, Ms Hauser said.

“It’s funny how the tables are turned here: I’ve spent the past 28 years protecting whales, and in the moment, I didn’t even realize that they were protecting me!”

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January 10, 2018 |

2 thoughts on “Humpback whale ‘protects’ diver from nearby tiger shark

  1. kjhine says:

    This is certainly one for the books! How incredible it must have been for you, Nan. Most of us only dream of such encounters, and at some distance, but to have had such an up close and personal, potentially life-saving (and simultaneously life-threatening) gesture is another example of the kinship we obviously share with aquatic mammals. And to have had it captured on film is amazing. Check that off your bucket list!

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