The earth is mostly covered by water. We have all learned in school that 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by the oceans, the seas, rivers, and lakes. So it is quite self-explanatory from this statement that there are many uncharted areas of the oceans that we as humans have not been able to explore. Hence there have been loads of incidents of mysterious nature happening in the ocean. This is one such event. As we all know the ocean can be quite scary as it is an unfamiliar place. We as humans cannot live there and so there are so many things we have yet to decipher about it. So much so that even the most learned scientists have some questions about the ocean. Take the case of this marine biologist Nan Hauser who was approached by a giant humpback whale that nudged her around. See what happens…
Learning The Ocean
If you are a fan of the ocean, then a marine biologist’s job would definitely be a dream for you. They get to learn, explore and experience how oceanic living beings function. They get to see first-hand how the aquatic life is like. You must have seen on a channel like ‘National Geographic’ or ‘Discovery’ where these biologists go underwater in order to get a better understanding of how the flora and fauna in the oceans live life. One of the most learned marine biologists Nan Hauser has had a long-term fascination with the whale. She, in fact,act one of the most experienced whale experts. This lady resides in Rarotonga, on the Cook Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. She has the job of looking after the whales in and around the area she stays. Nan is the principal investigator for the area’s Whale Research Project.
World’s Leading Whale Expert
If you think that her job sounds cool, wait till you hear about what other things she does. Nan has another very incredible job she does that involves whales. The main job of Nan is to do research about the behavior of the whales, their biology, genetics, and their migratory habits. Another job that Hauser does is that she makes films to educate the world about her favorite creatures. She gets to document her favorite animals and present other people who may not be so familiar with whales, the things they need to know. With the help of her films, she gets to teach people the right ways of dealing with whales and what whales usually do in their habitat. It is indeed a very cool job.
Knowing The Species Well
Do you want to hear about one of the most amazing things Nan has ever done? This spectacular woman has helped in transforming the whole of the Cook Islands territorial waters into a whale sanctuary. The whole area is actually an amazing 772,200 square miles. And here’s another thing that she does, she is a Cook Islands Marine Park trustee as well. Now we will never ever question why she is considered one of the most trusted whale experts in the whole world. Looking at all the thing she has done for the betterment of the whale species, Nan’s work is indeed commendable. If you look at her work experience, you cannot deny the fact that she has one impressive resume.
Getting Up Close And Personal
Nan is a lucky lady if you consider the job she does and the place where she stays. It is one of the most convenient places to work in as the Cook Islands is an ideal place for an oceanic researcher to be based. There is a marine sanctuary in the Cook Islands. It is known as Marae Moana and as you may have guessed, is a wonderland of biodiversity. A location is a place where 21 species of dolphins and whales reside and an incredible 600 types of fish are home to. There are also 16 shark species and some endangered turtles present on the island. For a marine biologist who is dedicated to their work, what more could you ask for right? Nan is indeed a lucky woman to be working in such a place where there is such a rich biodiversity.
Just Another Day On The Job
This incident took place on a day like any other. There was no special event that happened and Nan was going about doing her own work. Nan recalls the day as just another day on the job as a marine biologist. She first dived into the waters off Rarotonga, when she then had a whale experience. This came as a surprise as she was not expecting any of this to happen at all. However, she was quite happy because as we have all read, she loves whales very much. As she dived into the ocean, there was a humpback that approached her. Nan explained her encounter with the whale saying “instead of just swimming past me, he came right towards me,” in an interview on January 2018. “And he didn’t stop coming towards me until I was on his head.”
Whale are huge animals and to be face to face with them would definitely give most of us a big scare. If we have never seen a whale before, imagine being underwater and an animal that is bigger than an elephant comes right towards you. How would that feel? ‘Intimidating’ would not even begin to explain how terrifying this would feel. So like other whales, this leviathan, would weigh about 25 tons and be as long as an incredible 50 feet. It started to roll Hauser around with his enormous frame. With most of her encounters with whales Hauser says she is never too scared of whales. However, this was a different case and she did have fear running through her blood when this happened. It was a haunting case where she felt trapped.
This came as a shock to Nan because she had been working with whales for so long and nothing like this had ever happened. She said that in all her years of studying all these different types of whales, there had never been a whale that was acting like this one she met that day. She even explained the whale and said he was “putting me on his head, or belly, or back, or, most of all, trying to tuck me under his huge pectoral fin.” Imagine getting all these physical cues from a whale, most of us would probably die or pass out dues to extreme fear. Even for a whale expert like her, this experience was a very scary one that did not give her a good feeling at all. But why would it act like that?
Fearing For Her Life
Since she always carries her camera everywhere she goes, even this incident was recorded on her camera. Nan managed to tape the entire frightening incident that Hauser and her colleagues experienced on video. The incident would have indeed been scary as the whale could be seen charging and swimming up out of the deep making his way towards the diving biologist. It then surfaced for air and made his way to get to her. It can then be seen repeated nudging her with its tail and head. One very extreme incident that took place during this whole ordeal was that at one point during the whole clip, the whale can be seen throwing Hauser up out of the water. That could have ended tragically.
A Fun Moment Turned Into A Nightmare
In all her years as a dedicated marine biologist, Nan had never encountered an animal of such behavior. It puzzled her so much. For someone who had never approached these animals with fear, she was very shocked to see it behave this way. She was now fearing the animals she had never been scared of before. Nan had up until that point, never been worried about diving into the deep water. So how can this have happened? How did this change come about? She was asking herself if it could be her actions that may have upset the giant creature? During the time the whale did all these, the only thing she could do wast to hope and pray that things would eventually turn out okay.
Battered And Bruised
As Nan further explained, she said in her own words,“I’ve been underwater with whales for 28 years, and this is just really unusual behavior. It’s crazy.” It was something that she had never thought would ever happen to her as she had had a smooth run in with each of the other whales she had ever made any physical contact with. This terrifying ordeal took place for over ten minutes. The giant whale did not stop shoved her around and toying her around. The only thing that Hauser was afraid of was the fact that she could have died. There was a big possibility that with just a single blow from its massive whopping tail or fin, Nan could have lost her life in a matter of seconds.
Trying To Remain Calm
There was not much Nan could do as she obviously could not ever compete with a giant underwater creature. It was clear that all she could do was just hope. The terrified whale expert tried her best not to panic and remain calm. She felt like the whale could probably sense her alarm. “I stayed calm to a point but was sure that it was most likely going to be a deadly encounter,” she even explained as she talked about her scary encounter in detail. One thing she could do was to completely focus on trying to escape. So as soon as Hauser could, she made a move and slightly strayed away from the whale. It was then that she noticed the real, other threat that was frightening the whale so much.
What Did Her Colleagues Think?
Just like Nan was, even her other coworkers were very scared of how things were going to turn out. They felt helpless and were not able to think of solutions to get Nan out. During the time Nan was experiencing this frightening incident, her colleagues were all present and filming from a distance. But even they were not so sure of what to save her. Even for them, this was a very different experience that had never happened before as well. It was very hard for them because they could not get in the way. There was a chance that large whale would try to attack them as well. They were out of ideas to save their coworker. But then, there was another scarier incident that was about to take place in a few moments.
As we have mentioned earlier, this was truly a rare case that none of these people had ever had to deal with. They were all, in their own rights, very well skilled when it comes to swimming and dealing with life underwater. But to get toyed around by a whale was something no one could ever fathom. Even for a skilled swimmer and whale expert like Hauser, who has had her fair share of experiencing life under the ocean, this was something that was out of the ordinary. She had never been stuck in a situation like this. She even went on to say, “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.”
Since she had dealt with multiple fishes and whales in the deep blue seas, Nan knew a thing or two about how to deal with whales when coming face to face with each other. She said in an interview, “I didn’t want to panic, because I knew that he would pick up on my fear.” Hauser said this as she explained what went through her head during the time of the hair-raising situation. She explained further saying,“I feel a very close kinship with animals, so despite my trepidation, I tried to stay calm and figure out how to get away from him.” Most animals act on instinct so she was determined not to frighten him or startle him so that she could go in peace. It was a smart move but would it pay off?
Threats All Around Her
So then as she maintained her cool and made her way away from the huge whale, Nan slowly swam away. it would have been a very frightening situation because one wrong move would have killed her then and there. But her expertise in whales and knowing that she had to remain calm and collected worked in her favor. So slowly she made her way and while she was approaching the boat, Hauser noticed something strange. She caught a sight of a second whale that was a little further ahead of the one next to her. As she looked at the whale it seemed as though he was thrashing at something she first thought of to be another whale with its tail. What would become of her fate now that there were two other whales?
Oh My Gosh
Since she could not make out how the other animals looked like, Nan could not tell what type of whales they were. She first assumed that they were all from the same school. But there was something that Nan could not see clearly from a distance. As the third animal began to swim towards her, she could get a better view and could see how it looked like. “But… the tail fin was going side to side instead of up and down,” she said in an interview, explaining how she felt like during this whole experience. She then added to her story saying “So my mind quickly went, ‘Oh, my gosh.’” It would have been traumatizing to realize that the third whale was not, in fact, a whale but an even scarier underwater animal.
Mind Goes Blank
Imagine finding out that the whale you though was approaching you turns out to be an even deadlier animal. We can only imagine the kind of feeling that Nan must be having when she realized this. It is something that we have seen in movies and is certainly not an incident you would want to experience for yourself. So when we read about this type of incident, we always stay prepared for the worst, but when the time actually comes, in the exact moment, all the things we have ever taught ourselves gets thrown out of the window. We do not remember anything. This is what happened to poor Hauser. She explained that she felt tired and breathless and that her mind went blank. ‘It was as if my mind went totally blank. I couldn’t think of how to get myself out of this’.
Even though Nan was well versed with these waters, she could not guarantee that she could save herself when this happened. Nothing she had ever learned or experienced could have helped in preparing her to save herself in this moment. Since she had now become quite exhausted after being thrown around by the whale, Nan could not function well anymore. But as her luck would have it, things turned out for the worse as this new animal was even more threatening. If she had made any rash decision and made one wrong turn or movement, she could have easily lost her life. But how could she get out of this difficult situation? What could she have done to save her poor self?
As you might have already guessed, the giant animal that has its tails gliding from side to side was, in fact, one of the most ferocious animals underwater, a shark. The threat that had this whale expert shaking in her boots was a huge shark. And to make matters worse, this ferocious being was fast approaching fast Nan. She said that as her heart thudded, she had to quickly think of a plan to save herself. She needed a game plan that was literally going to save her life from the clutches of this fearsome shark. She had to make sure that she did not execute any sudden movement or action that may startle the shark to get angry and attack her. We all know that this would end in a very unfortunate result as she stands no chance in fighting with the shark.
Possibly Harrowing Footage
It was later revealed that Hauser had never ever seen the whale before she made her way into the water that day. It was all a coincidence that soon left her at her most frightened state. And moreover, on the biologist’s nearby research vessel, Hauser’s team had another huge issue they had to deal with. They did not want to abandon their drone footage there because of the fact that they “did not want to film my death,” as Nan nicely puts it. It was troubling for both Nan and her team because there was nothing much they could do that could ever stop the shark from doing what it has intended to do. They were helpless and were desperately looking for ways to help save the marine biologist that was trapped and surrounded.
Surrounded By All Angles
Since Nan was now both surrounded by the whale and the approaching shark she was running out of places to hide or get away to. She was contemplating on whether she should swim away, or just let it play out. Either way, she was very scared of what the end result would be. But then, as the shark made its way closer to her, she has a sudden realization that went through her mind.
So then when she saw the shark swimming toward Hauser, she realized what the whole incident with the whale was about. The whale was actually safeguarding her from the approaching shark that obviously had bad intentions. There had been many records about these whales protecting one another but to see them protect a human being was a rare case she had never heard of before.
So as this realization happened, Nan felt that this could be a potentially dangerous situation. Even if she tried to swim quickly she could never beat the pace of the tiger shark. But then her luck was soon turning around. as her colleagues had gotten back into their boat and were making their way towards her. How would this all end? Was she going to have to swim or were her colleagues going to dive in and rescue her?
Whales are known as the “gentle giant” of the sea. To call the whale a giant is precise as the humpback sometimes grows to about 60 feet in length and 40 tons in weight. To think that this whale was throwing Nan around is unbelievable. Humpbacks mostly feed on tiny sea creatures and plankton. There was a point in time that these humpbacks were endangered but with the efforts of conservation, they are increasing in number once again.
There have been many incidents where these whales have saved other animals from predators, mostly killer whales. For over 62 years, at least 115 of such incidents have been recorded. Once, Robert Pitman, who is a marine ecologist, reportedly saw a humpback deliberately lift a seal from the water to save it from a pack of killer whales. Impressive right?
Motivation Of The Killer
There have been many arguments regarding the motives of these whales on why they save lives. Fred Sharpe, who is a researcher at the Alaska Whale Foundation, had said in an interview back in August 2017, “[Humpbacks] are directing their behavior for the benefit of other species. But there’s no doubt there are important differences between human compassion and animal compassion.”
“When a human protects an imperiled individual of another species, we call it compassion,” says Pitman, who works for the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He goes on saying, “If a humpback whale does so, we call it instinct. But sometimes the distinction isn’t all that clear.” So maybe they are just very compassionate animals that sadly cannot communicate and speak to us.
Whale’s Loving Intuition
This type of altruistic action can be seen in many notable workers like policemen and firefighters. The instinct that these whales have has been explained by the biologist, comparing it to firemen who are willing to rush into a house on fire to try and save strangers. Even these whales could end up getting hurt or injured when they try to save these other species but they do it anyways.
Tiger Shark Motives
Tiger sharks, on the other hand, can grow to be 25 feet long and can weigh almost a ton. They are often described as ruthless killers who love to feed on vulnerable prey. The only other shark that attacks more people than tiger sharks are the great whites. However, great whites usually leave their victims after injury but tiger sharks actually feed on them.
Tiger sharks are common in the Pacific islands, and they mostly eat seals, birds, turtles, fish, and dolphins. They usually hunt alone but when they are in a group, they sometimes attack humpback whales as well. But sadly, tiger sharks are slowly reaching the endangered species zone because of fishing and a high demand for its fins.
After literally getting saved by a humpback from a fearsome tiger shark, Hauser says she would not be surprised to hear that some people are skeptical. “If it hadn’t been me, if it hadn’t been filmed in three different angles, I wouldn’t believe it,” she said in an interview, “I tried a lot not to anthropomorphize any of the behavior that I see. It’s easy to do, but it’s not a good practice in science.”
We may never get the answers as to why these whales do what they do, but this experience will forever remain special to Hauser. “I’ve spent years protecting whales, and at the moment, I didn’t even realize that they were protecting me,” she had said. It must be nice to actually experience such a rare case even though it could have cost her her life.
She then went on saying, “There is a published scientific paper about humpbacks protecting other species of animals, by Robert Pitman. For instance, they hide seals under their pectoral fins to protect them from killer whales. They truly display altruism – sometimes at the risk of losing their own lives.” Humpbacks are indeed a curious case and deserve all the protection and conservation they can receive.
Up Close And Personal
Nan does not recommend actually touching these whales even if they are known to be very friendly. “I never touch the whales that I study unless they are sick or stranded on the beach,” she had explained. “In my head, I was a bit amused since I write rules and regulations about whale harassment – and here I was being harassed by a whale.”
Hopes For The future
The only thing left for Nan the biologist to do is to share the footage she and her team could take. She can now use this very valuable tape so as to expand research and awareness of such actions from whales. In the end, her traumatic experience turned out to be such a blessing in her endeavors as a marine biologist trying to save the ocean and the animals that reside in it.
Fear Of Entering The Water Again
So for most of us who have experienced a life-threatening incident, we would usually stray away from the place where it happened right? This was not the case for Nan who is now even more dedicated. When Hauser was asked if the incident with the whale and the shark made her fear the water, her response was a quick and simple: “Never.”