Scientist Reunites With the Humpback Whale That Saved Her From a Shark

Humpback Whale Saves Scientist

Photo: gudkovandrey/123RF (Not a photo of the actual whale.)

We've heard about people being rescued by dogs and dolphins, but one lucky scientist was rescued by a hero that was much, much larger. Biologist Nan Hauser was filming off Rarotonga in the Cook Islands when she came across two large sea creatures, one of which was a humpback whale. It turned out that the startling encounter was a blessing in disguise, as the whale whisked Hauser away from the other animal—a massive tiger shark.

Hauser recalled the incredible story during a 2021 interview with BBC Earth. While whales are not known to be aggressive with humans, they are obviously dangerously large and powerful. When Hauser saw the humpback whale charge at her, she didn't know what to expect. Even stranger, the whale apparently tucked her under its pectoral fin, as though shielding the scientist, before transferring her onto its back and carrying her toward the boat.

After Hauser was finally able to find safety and gain distance from the situation, she realized what had occurred. The whale that swept her away was fighting with the other sea creature from earlier, and it was only at that point that Hauser was able to identify the other animal as a large tiger shark. “I've spent my entire life underwater and I've seen plenty of tiger sharks,” she said. “This was like a truck. This was a huge tiger shark and it was coming right for me.”

From that point, Hauser came to the conclusion that the humpback whale was on a mission to protect her. “I still to this day can't believe it happened and being a scientist it's even harder,” she continued. “If someone told me this story, I wouldn't believe them.” Even so, Hauser had all of the evidence in front of her. Then, a second miracle happened. She was reunited with the humpback whale a little over a year later.

Hauser was informed that a whale had moved into the area, and being a whale expert, she went to check it out. At once, Hauser noticed the two notches in the tail fluke. “And then next I knew the whale came up next to the side of the boat,” Hauser said. “He ignored everyone else on the boat and he stared directly at me… I looked at him and I saw a scar on his head and I just screamed, ‘He's back! I can't believe he's back!' And sure enough there he was.”

With no time to waste, Hauser put on her wetskin and jumped into the water so that she could swim beside the giant whale. As they traveled together, the animal stared at her and even nudged her. “It was like seeing a dog that you haven't seen in six months,” Hauser adds. “I miss him. I mean, who misses a whale?” Hopefully, the scientist and her heroic whale have not seen the last of each other.

Biologist Nan Hauser was saved from a tiger shark by a helpful humpback whale. A year later, Hauser was reunited with her hero.

h/t: [IFL Science]

Related Articles:

Friendly Whales Approach Two Paddlers in Puerto Madryn, Argentina

Whale Makes Sounds of Joy as It Gets Hugs and Kisses From Man Fulfilling Life-Long Dream of Meeting Them

Striking Humpback Whale Photos Celebrate the “Ballerinas of the Sea”

Margherita Cole

Margherita Cole is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and illustrator based in Southern California. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Wofford College, and an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University in the UK. She wrote and illustrated an instructional art book about how to draw cartoons titled 'Cartooning Made Easy: Circle, Triangle, Square' that was published by Walter Foster in 2022.
Become a
My Modern Met Member
As a member, you'll join us in our effort to support the arts.
Become a Member
Explore member benefits

Sponsored Content