Stunning footage shows whale protecting a diver from a shark
Wildlife conservationists spend years seeking to promote the protection of certain species, whether endangered or otherwise at risk, through their hard work and attempts to provide support to various ecosystems. After spending all their time seeing to the needs of animals, they don't expect to be rewarded by the creatures themselves, let alone saved by them.
Marine biologist Nan Hauser, 63, was diving when she came into contact with not one, but two humpback whales. The mammal, which weighs roughly 50,000 lbs, approached her and started to push her away, while the other thrashed its tail in the water. She didn't realise it at first, but the whales were actually trying to save her life.
The humpback whale had spotted a 15-foot tiger shark lurking nearby and protected the scientist, shielding her underneath its pectoral fin and pushing her to safety with its head, even lifting her out of the water entirely at one point. Hauser's team managed to capture part of this chance encounter on film, which she is claiming as proof of the mammal's instinct to care for and protect other species.
The video was taken in the waters off Muri Beach, Rarotonga, near the Cook Islands in October. The shark can be seen faintly in the distance in the footage, but the whale keeps them at a distance. Hauser explained that the other whale was just out of shot and was slapping its tail on the surface to keep the shark away. Speaking to The Mirror, the marine biologist described the events:
"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 that if he rammed me too hard, or hit me with his flippers or tail, that would break my bones and rupture my organs."
"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."
Hauser has a policy to not come into physical contact with the whales she studies, unless they are stranded on the beach or sick in some way. "In my head, I was a bit amused since I write Rules and Regulations about whale harassment," she joked, "and here I was being harassed by a whale".
Her team also use a drone to film, but abandoned this when they became concerned for her wellbeing. She quickly became aware of what was happening, but by that point managed to find her way back to her boat. She points to a scientific study by Robert Pitman, which was focused on humpback whales protecting other species.
"For instance, they hide seals under their pectoral fins to protect them from killer whales," she told The Mirror. "They truly display altruism - sometimes at the risk of losing their own lives."
However, this is the first time this behaviour has been documented between a humpback and a human. Given how much humankind has damaged the natural world over the years, this act of kindness is all the more powerful.