They say whales have big hearts, and this is clearly true in the emotional sense as well as the physical.
While out snorkelling with her team close to Muri Beach, Rarotonga, whale biologist Nan Hauser from the Cook Islands had no inkling a 15-foot-long tiger shark was lurking perilously nearby
Blissfully unaware of how close she was to becoming lunch, it was lucky 63-year-old Nan had an unlikely friend looking out for her.
Incredible footage shows how a 50,000 pound male humpback whale attempted to protect Nan, pushing her away from the jaws of the predatory shark with his head and mouth.
The kindly whale tucked Nan under his enormous pectoral fin and at one point reportedly even lifted the biologist out of the water, although this amazing moment isn’t captured on film.
Away from the camera, another whale apparently tail slapped to keep the shark at bay; the two whales working as a team to protect Nan.
Nan now believes this behaviour is indicative of the intuition of whales to look out for species other than their own. She believes this is the first time such proof has been captured on film.
Nan told the Mirror:
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.
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 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.
We have had a hectic past couple of days with film crews and whales coming out of our ears! After no whales for a week, they started showing up a few days ago and we had 16 in the last two days alone! The whales came to the party and made sure the team from @young_ocean_explorers got amazing footage for their episode on the Cook Islands humpback whales. Can't wait to see what their team comes up with! @rileyhath @depth.nz #CookIslandsWhaleResearch #NanHauser #Humpbackwhales #Humpback #whales #breach #research #awareness #education #conservation #PacificOcean #Ocean #MaraeMoana #KeepItBlu #wildlife #CookIslands #Rarotonga #sea #boat #Cetaceans #marinemammals
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.
Interestingly, it’s evident the whale rather than Nan is the one initiating contact. The pair had never been acquainted before, and so the whale wasn’t acting on any existing loyalties.
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.
Going forward, Nan hopes sharing this footage will help expand research and awareness of the benevolent tendencies of these gentle giants.
What a fascinating insight into life beneath the surface of the ocean.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.