Nan Hauser has spent years studying whales near the Cook Islands. Her work as a marine biologist means she spends a lot of time in the water and is an experienced diver. But, in 2017 and 2018 she had experiences with one whale that forever changed her. During the first encounter this giant male humpback whale wouldn’t leave her alone in the water near Rarotonga. At the time she had on a snorkel and so wasn’t diving very deep. And yet, when she described her encounter BBC Earth she said this whale seemed to be trying to tuck her under his pectoral fin. She couldn’t go deeper into the water without losing her ability to breathe so this was somewhat of a struggle.
It was at this time that she remembered her grandmother telling her to never get swallowed by a whale. However, the interaction was overall very friendly and she eventually hitched a ride on the whale. She said that in 30 years of studying whales that nothing like this had ever happened to her before.
After around 10 minutes the whale again changed its movements and that’s when Hauser noticed a very large tiger shark headed for her. The shark “was like a truck” it was so large. That’s when the whale did something amazing.
She not only credits the whale for saving her life, but the whale actually came back to the same area 1 year later and she had another positive encounter with him. Studies of whale migration patterns have shown that they rarely ever return to this area as most of the whales are first-time visitors to the Cook Island waters. This is referred to as a “zero fidelity” site since all the whales that come to breed have never been before. This means the whale could have come back intentionally to see Hauser. It’s truly awe-inspiring to think about.