Would you risk your life by allowing a humpback whale to attack you? Last October, marine researcher Nan Hauser had no idea she was answering this question when a massive humpback whale, weighing maybe 50,000 pounds (22,700 kilograms), walked up to her in the Cook Islands’ seas and began to raise her out of the water with its massive head. Hauser quietly swam about the whale for the next ten minutes while the whale prodded him with his head, smacked him with his belly, and hit him with his massive pectoral fins.
“I’ve spent 28 years underwater with whales, and I’ve never seen a whale that was so tactile and persistent on putting me on its head, belly, back, or, most importantly, attempting to get beneath its massive pectoral fin.” According to Hauser, president of the Cook Islands-based Cetacean Research and Conservation Center,
“If he lunged too aggressively or struck me with his fins or tail, my bones and organs would be broken.” I would have drowned if he had kept me beneath his pectoral fin… it would have been a fatal encounter.”
Hauser was nearly correct, but not in the way she expected. After eventually rising and returning to his research craft, he noticed another surprise guest swimming nearby: a 15-foot-long tiger shark hiding on the whale’s opposite side.
Surprisingly, Hauser and his colleagues managed to film the whole battle, which they later released. She is now confident that the heroic humpback is not attempting to harm her, but rather is defending her from a far more dangerous shark.
According to Hauser, president of the Cetacean Research and Conservation Center, whales are “altruistic” and prefer to defend seals from predators, but she has never seen or read that they have ever protected a human person.