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Till this day, whenever marine biologist Nan Hauser dives into the blue waters, she always recalls that sunny afternoon that she experienced something unimaginable. It all started with an unexpected encounter…
Nan Hauser is a marine biologist who has contributed her entire life to the researching and monitoring of ocean life, especially whales and dolphins. Thanks to her, the territorial waters off the South Pacific’s Cook Islands are now a whale sanctuary. During her 28 years of aquatic pursuits, she has taken part in countless dives and expeditions in the vast ocean, but she recently experienced something unlike anything she had experienced before.
Like any ordinary day in her work, Hauser took a boat out and prepared to dive into the sapphire blue waters. But just a few minutes after entering the water, she noticed a massive figure in the deep ocean was heading straight to her.
As the creature approached, Hauser realized it was a giant humpback whale. The marine biologist estimated that the whale could have weighed as much as 50,000 pounds. Hauser had dived into these specific waters many times before during her research and was familiar with many of the creatures that lived in the vicinity, but she had never seen this specific whale before, and she couldn't believe what it did next.
As a marine biologist, Hauser has spent decades researching oceans animals, so she was not afraid of the massive whale swimming to her. She knew what to do to avoid scaring or antagonizing the creature, but what the humpback did later was a total surprise and made her heart race.
Instead of swimming past the human biologist, the animal came right towards Hauser, and he didn't stop until she was on his head. Despite her professional expertise, Hauser was surprised and confused at the whale's peculiar behaviors, but the whale didn't stop there.
The giant whale began to nudge Hauser and even roll around In the water. At one point, she was holding the creature's pectoral fins for life as he lifted her out of the water. As an experienced marine biologist, she was familiar with any number of sea mammals and usually not afraid of them. However, being on the receiving end of this bizarre behavior, she began to fear for her life.
Hauser was pushed and nudged by the whale for another 10 minutes but for her, it seemed to last for hours. Such an enormous mammal could have easily broken her bones if he had hit her with his flippers or tail, or drawn her under his pectoral fin. Hauser tried to remain calm, but she was prepared for the worst. She had a research team with her but what they did was not very helpful.
Hauser had a fellow diver with her to record the dive for later research, but the other cameraman had not filmed whales before and did not understand the whale’s peculiar behavior. The crewmembers above the surface also couldn’t do much to interfere with a giant whale. Hauser was practically on her own with the 25-ton creature. Little did she know, the whale was not the only thing she needed to fear.
Already miles from the shore, as Hauser was starting to consider the chances of her returning to safety were rapidly diminishing, she noticed another whale was also swimming towards her. However, the first whale did not let up, and he kept Nauser even closer - so close that she could feel the bruises from his nudges and barnacles. But that was not the worst, as soon another figure emerged from the deep, and it was far more terrifying than a whale.
At first, Nauser thought the third creature was just another whale, but on closer inspection, she noticed the tail of the third animal was moving from side-to-side instead of up-and-down like that of a whale. And as the animal moved closer, she could finally identify the shadowy figure as the last thing she wanted to see - a tiger shark!
Hauser was terrified as she knew how deadly tiger sharks could be. They can grow as long as 25 feet and weigh almost a ton. In terms of fatal attacks on humans, they may be second to great white sharks, but unlike great white sharks who usually stop attacking humans after a quick bite, they often continue to attack their prey. Now that Nauser was facing two whales and a deadly predator, what could she do to save her life?
Suddenly two whales did not seem like a big threat, compared with the deadly tiger shark. Faced with the prospect of being the potential target of a tiger shark, Nauser did the only thing that she could think of and tried to swim back to her research boat.
Much to everyone’s relief, Nauser managed to escape the shark and reach the research boat safely. She could finally breathe a sigh of relief. As she examined the bruises sustained from the incident, it suddenly dawned on her what the peculiar behavior of the first whale actually meant.
After viewing the footage of the whale encounter, Hauser suddenly realized the humpback was actually trying to warn her of the impending shark attack and to protect her. "Maybe the shark wasn't going to attack me," she said, "but he [the whale] was trying to save my life." What she had experienced was incredibly rare, but the heartwarming story did not end there.
While Hauser and her team were collecting themselves aboard the boat, she couldn’t believe her eyes when the whale surfaced and came to check on her. He was spraying water out of its blowhole and Hauser called out “I Love You, Too.” before he swam away. Nauser recorded the incredibly rare and heartwarming story, but not everyone believed her.
“I’m a scientist, and if anyone told me this story, I wouldn’t believe it,” she admitted. Nan Hauser’s recording went viral around the world, but some scientists didn’t buy it, saying the true intention of the whale was impossible to determine. However, Hauser had lived through the incident and she was convinced that her incredible experience had never been seen before. But that wasn’t all.
According to Hauser, her footage was the first-ever recording of a humpback whale trying to protect a human from a potential threat. It provided valuable evidence for scientists to further study the behavior of these magnificent creatures.
Although Nauser’s recording might be the first footage of a humpback whale protecting a human, the giant creature actually has a reputation for being the protector of the ocean. They always band together to protect the young in their packs and they are also seen protecting other species, such as hiding seals under their pectoral fins from predators. But why do they do this?
The explanation for the humpback’s protective behavior is not conclusive. Some scientists including Nan Nauser attribute the reason to “altruism,” saying that this behavior is a sort of instinctual reaction. Nonetheless, Hauser’s experience with the whales and the shark is heartwarming and unforgettable.
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