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Whales are a majestic creature. They’re known for being extraordinarily intelligent. Some whales emotional intelligence exceed humans. Humpback whales in specific are characterized by their altruism.

Marine biologist, Robert Pitman analyzed this altruistic behavior for about 60 years. Many have documented these whales banning together to prevent a killer whale from attacking. Their protection is not discriminatory. Humpback whales will save the life of any species, not just their own.

The Biologist Who Saw it for Herself

Nan Hauser is an experienced diver who filmed the first ever recording of a humpback whale saving a human, and that human was herself. Hauser is a marine biologist. She mainly studies humpbacks and swims with them all the time.

She Knew Something Wasn’t Right

One October day, Nan went about her usual diving routine and swam next to a 50,000-pound humpback. This time, she felt something was off. The friendly creature started pushing her off the waters of Cook Island. Usually, her interactions are calm and friendly, but this seemed more aggressive than usual.

Human Strength is No Match to a Whale’s

Hauser tried to calmly swim away back to her boat, but the whale kept pushing her. Hauser knew better than to panic and frantically fight back. One pulse from a whale this size can easily crush human bones. Hauser stayed as calm as possible and let the whale guide her.

Hauser explained what was going through her mind. “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 was sure that it was most likely going to be a deadly encounter,” she says.

She’s Never Seen a Humpback Act That Way

She was nudged, pushed and rolled around on the back of this humpback. Hauser explained that the whale kept putting its eye near her head. She felt that the whale wanted to tell her something, but she could not figure it out. Throughout her years of studying the magnificent creature, she’s never experienced something like this.

“I’ve spent 28 years underwater with whales, and have never had a whale so tactile and so insistent on putting me on his head, or belly, or back, or, most of all, trying to tuck me under his huge pectoral fin,” Hauser says in an interview.

A Distant & Charging Figure

At one point Huser glanced in the distance. She noticed a large figure swimming fast in her direction. She saw that the figure’s tale was waving side to side, and realized what was happening. Whale’s tales move up and down while sharks move side to side. Hauser’s humpback friend was saving her from a massive, 15-foot-long tiger shark.

Eventually, the humpback whale led Hauser back to her boat. She quickly jumped to safety and was overcome with emotion. She describes this as the most incredible experience of her life. Her crew documented the whole thing.

Altruism in the sea.

Robert Pitman studied the behavior of humpback whales for a majority of his life. He’s very familiar with the altruistic reputation humpback whales have. However, as a man of science, he likes to point out the fact that altruism is a survival tactic for the whale itself.

The Benefits of an Altruistic Instinct

The instinct to protect other species stems from their instinct to protect their calves. Pitman explains that altruism in humpback whales is an unconscious instinct that survived through evolution and is beneficial for their species existence.

The instinct and impulse to interrupt an attack from a shark or killer whale are subconscious, unintentional and not specific towards an attack on their offspring. But, as a consequence to this instinct, many sea swimmers lives have been spared.