Nan Hauser is a marine biologist who has been diving with whales for nearly 30 years. In the stunning footage below, we can see the moment a 50,000-pound humpback whale pushed it back and forth in the water to protect it from an oncoming shark.
In October, Hauser was diving in the waters off Muri Beach, Rarotonga, in the South Pacific Cook Islands, with a crew who wanted to film her in the water alongside humpback whales. In an unusual and persistent manner, one of the whales swam up to it and began nudging it with its mouth and chin, apparently trying to get it under its pectoral fin.
Hauser says: “He just wouldn’t stop touching me. I tried to walk away several times but she kept doing this. He finally pushed me out of the water with his fin. He kept putting his eye right next to me and I couldn’t understand what he was trying to tell me.”
“Finally I took my eyes off the whale and saw something swimming very fast with its tail swaying from side to side. Whales swim with their tails bobbing up and down… That’s when I realized it was a tiger shark, and it was one of the biggest sharks I’ve ever seen.”
By this time, the whale had returned Hauser to the boat after an intense few minutes of wrestling and turning. When the time came, Hauser quickly jumped into the boat and the whale returned to check on her safety.
“I just put my hands on my face and started crying. I can’t tell if they were tears of relief because I was alive or because I just experienced the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.” told the girl.
Humpback whales are known to care for others, and there are several documented cases of attempts to save other animals from harm. Marine biologist Bert Pitman has analyzed this behavior for over 60 years and concluded that humpback whales often band together to stop orca attacks, regardless of the type of animal being attacked.
So far, the Hauser encounter is the only documented case involving a human.
Although Hauser suffered a bit of an injury in the encounter, that didn’t stop him from entering the same waters a few days later, on his birthday. A female humpback followed her boat for miles and kept jumping out of the water as if to get her attention.
Hauser said: “I just knew that she was the second whale that day, the one that was hitting the water. I went into the water with her and she dove. I thought ‘No, she didn’t recognize me’. But right below me, she was looming with her beautiful pectoral fins out. She put on her flippers and hugged me.”
After an eventful few days, Hauser couldn’t help but feel more inspired than ever to continue her important work and further educate people about the issues facing whales in the world’s oceans.