Humankind might hold dominion over planet Earth, but we are by no means the only intelligent and compassionate form of life. As science continues to develop, we are slowly realizing just how incredible our animal counterparts are.
Now, incredible footage has emerged of a 50,000-pound humpback whale protecting a diver from a shark.
It’s no secret that humpback whales are intelligent. They’re famous for their songs and aerial acrobatic abilities which allow them to breach the surface of the water. But they’re also famed for their compassion, saving many others animals like seals from untimely deaths.
But this is the first time that footage has been captured of them in the act of saving a life, never mind doing it to a human.
Humpback whales’ desire to save other animals is said to be an extension of their instinct to protect their own calves.
Whale biologist Nan Hauser, pictured above, was studying humpback whales off the coast of Muri Beach, Rarotonga, of the Cook Islands in the South Pacific when the incident took place in October 2017. She said that it was proof of the animal’s intuitive protective nature.
In the footage, the whale can, at one point, be seen lifting 63-year-old Nan out of the water. The whale realized that danger was close by while she was studying its form. It made sure that Nan was kept safe beneath its giant pectoral flipper until a 15-foot tiger shark had passed by.
“There is a published scientific paper about humpbacks protecting other species of animals, by Robert Pitman,” Nan revealed. “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.”
Thanks to the 14-meter-long whale’s actions, when Nan is briefly pushed above the water, she gets a chance to alert her team to the nearby danger. She also revealed that another humpback whale, which can’t be seen on camera, created a distraction to help keep her safe.
At first, she mistook the shark for another whale, but soon realized what it was when she saw its tale movements.
“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,” she said. “I’ve spent 28 years underwater with whales, and have never had a whale so tactile and so insistent on trying to tuck me under his huge pectoral fin.”
“I tried to get away from him for fear that if he rammed me too hard, or hit me with his flippers or tail, that would break my bones and rupture my organs. If he held me under his pectoral fin, I would have drowned.”
“I didn’t want to panic because I knew that he would pick up on my fear.”
“I stayed calm to a point but was sure that it was most likely going to be a deadly encounter,” Nan continued. “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.”
“I never took my eyes off him which is why I didn’t see the shark right away.”
Check out the incredible footage below
“Other fishermen and divers have seen this same shark nearby the reef and say that it is as big as a pickup truck,” Nan said of the incident. “Some say that it is 20-feet long.”
“It’s funny how the tables are turned here: I’ve spent the past 28 years protecting whales, and in the moment, I didn’t even realize that they were protecting me!”
Humpback whales, however, are not the only marine mammal to have saved human lives before.
There have been numerous recorded incidents of dolphins saving lives, and now a new scientific study has claimed that whales and dolphins live “human-like lives” thanks to their large brains.
The study in question used data from 90 different species. It found that the larger the species’ brain was, the more complex and human-like their life would be.
The data also revealed that these animals not only have the ability to save others from danger but adopt species that are not their own too.
“There is the saying that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ [and that] seems to be true for both whales and humans,” said Michael Muthukrishna, an economic psychologist and co-author on the study at the London School of Economics.
“We don’t have to look at other planets to look for aliens because we know that underwater there are these amazing species with so many parallels to us in their complex behaviors,” Muthukrishna said.