A recent encounter between a human diver and a humpback whale has illustrated how concern for the safety of others can reach across species. Marine biologist Nan Hauser was on an expedition to the South Pacific’s Cook Islands to study whales for a film that she is making. But while diving with a humpback whale, her 25-tonne subject appeared to be attacking her, at least at first. But what she learned after extricating herself from the leviathan’s advances made her see the whole situation in a completely different light.
While filming the humpback, the whale started pushing her forward through the water, at first with its snout, and later it tried tucking her under its pectoral fin. Hauser was at a loss as to why the whale was acting so aggressively during the 10-minute encounter.
"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," the 63-year-old Hauser explained. "If he held me under his pectoral fin, I would have drowned."
Upon exiting the water, Hauser spotted a separate set of fins… belonging to a 15-foot tiger shark. This explained the humpback’s odd behavior, as it would appear that it was trying to corral Hauser away from the shark, a species notorious for attacking humans.
While she can’t definitively say that that was the case, Hauser feels that the humpback was exhibiting protective behavior toward her, something that the great creatures have demonstrated in the past, particularly toward other marine mammals.
"Maybe the shark wasn’t going to attack me but he [the whale] was trying to save my life."