Seals are often called the dogs of the sea, but it appears humpback whales are man’s best friend when it comes to the open waters of the ocean.
According to the Portland Press Herald, celebrated marine biologist Nan Hauser found herself in a scary situation in the waters of the Cook Islands in the South Pacific.
It happened in October, when the 63-year-old was on a routine dive with other researchers and a documentary filmmaker, observing the behavior of the majestic humpback whale — a massive creature of which Hauser is extremely familiar.
Through her vast experience, Hauser knows not to touch the 25-ton swimmers when they are close by. So she was shocked when, on this dive, one of the animals swam up to her and began to nudge her with its head and cover her with its pectoral fin.
“If someone told me the story, I wouldn’t believe it,” Hauser told the Portland Press Herald about the whale’s unusual behavior.
Unsure why the humpback was acting this way and easily overpowered by the creature, Hauser decided to stay still and let the whale call the shots.
“His eye was so wide, I was just waiting to get whacked,” she said. “But it was clear it was trying to communicate something,” the president of the Center for Cetacean Research and Conservation said.
Also uncertain as to what the whale was trying to say, the filmmaker diving with Hauser continued to film the pair waiting to see what would happen next.
After 10 minutes of carefully dancing with the whale, which felt like “three hours,” Hauser was close enough to her research boat to disengage and climb on board.
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It was in this moment that Hauser understood what the graceful giant was trying to tell her: a large tiger shark, which Hauser measured at 15 feet, was in the waters nearby watching the human.
The whale’s proximity to Hauser had saved her from a potential attack. Tiger sharks are responsible for more attacks on humans than any other shark species, including great whites.
While humpback whales have been recorded protecting seals from predators, Hauser has never heard of the altruistic animals looking after humans. Regardless, Hauser is grateful for the whale’s massive presence. She left this unique encounter with only a few bruises and scrapes, instead of a shark bite.
And while there is no way to prove for sure that the whale in the video was trying to protect her, Hauser believes she found a friend in the vast ocean exactly when she needed one.