Nan Hauser, a 63-year-old whale biologist, made headlines this week after a 50,000 lb humpback whale saved her from a shark attack.
The incident happened in September of last year when Hauser and another diver were observing whales off Muri Beach, Rarotonga, in the Cook Islands. Their video of the encounter went viral yesterday.
Fox News reports that Hauser’s research vessel had been following her encounter from a distance with an aerial drone, but abandoned their drone footage because they “did not want to film [her] death.”
Unbelievably, the massive whale placed itself between Hauser and the 15 foot Tiger Shark. “I didn’t want to panic, because I knew that he would pick up on my fear,” Hauser said in an interview with the Daily Mirror. At first, Hauser didn’t even notice the shark. “I never took my eyes off [the whale] which is why I didn’t see the shark right away.”
“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.” The giant whale pushed Hauser away from the shark with it’s huge pectoral fin. The shark eventually lost interest and left the area.
The humpback later pushed Hauser out of the water with its head. Marine biologists have reported similar behavior for decades when snorkeling with whales. Some researchers speculate that the whales may mistake the sounds of swimmers clearing their snorkels as a sign of distress.
“I feel a very close kinship with animals, so despite my trepidation,” Hauser said. “I tried to stay calm and figure out how to get away from him.”
According to the Daily Mirror, the cameraman who joined Hauser in the water had never filmed whales before and had no idea just how unique the moment was.
Both dolphins and whales have a long history of protective behavior toward humans and other mammals. “They truly display altruism,” Hauser explains, “sometimes at the risk of losing their own lives.”
The shark is barely visible in the far distance under the whale around the 0:21 mark of the video below.