What started out as a routine dive for experienced marine biologist Nan Hauser turned deadly when a massive humpback whale began to aggressively push her around. While this species is normally friendly, this humpback was acting completely out of character. Hauser’s struggles to stay away from the behemoth proved futile as it became more and more aggressive. However, Hauser would have never guessed the reason behind this whale’s horrifying behavior. As the situation unfolded, Hauser discovered the horrifying truth behind the whale’s aggression. Read on to learn what happened between Hauser and the whale that left scientists scratching their heads.
A Marine Wildlife Expert
Nan Hauser is a veteran marine biologist who has spent the majority of her life monitoring the ocean, in particular whales and dolphins. After 28 years of experience, her career has led her to take part in countless dives and expeditions in the Cook Islands as well as the Bahamas.
Hauser even managed to turn the territorial waters off the South Pacific’s Cook Islands into a whale sanctuary. She has been featured on shows airing on Animal Planet, the Discovery Channel, and National Geographic.
Going Beneath The Surface
One of the world’s most renowned whale experts, Hauser took up residence on Rarotonga, the largest of the Cook Islands. This way, she could be as close to her work as possible. The 15-island country is home to 21 species of dolphins and whales, more than 600 species of fish, and 16 types of sharks.
On a day just like any other, Hauser suited up and dove into the sapphire water, excited for another day on the job. Just minutes after entering the water, she saw a massive whale emerge from the deep.
She Didn’t Recognize This Whale
With the sea animal rapidly approaching, Hauser realized that what was swimming directly at her was a massive humpback whale. This is a type of whale with the capability to weigh 40 tons and grow up to 60 feet long, and it was coming right at her!
Hauser estimated that this whale weighed around 50,000 pounds. She was used to diving with these underwater mammoths and was familiar with many of the ones she monitored on a regular basis. However, she didn’t recognize this particular whale.
Business As Usual
As someone who has spent decades swimming in the water with these types of animals, Hauser knew exactly how to handle the situation and that she should not scare or antagonize this creature from the deep. She was rarely frightened in these kinds of situations.
Initially, she didn’t think that anything was out of the ordinary as she observed the magnificent creature. However, after the whale surfaced for air, it began getting uncomfortably close to Hauser.
Too Close For Comfort
The marine biologist never intended to make serious contact with the animal except maybe giving it a pat here and there. But this time, “instead of swimming past me, he came right toward me,” she told NPR in an interview. She continued, “and he didn’t stop coming towards me until I was on his head.”
Other than her wetsuit and fins, Hauser didn’t have any other diving equipment except a snorkel and a camera. She couldn’t understand what was happening, even as the whale pushed her onto his head.
The Wildlife Comes First
As a skilled and seasoned marine biologist, Hauser knows how to respect marine wildlife, as well as the ocean itself. She’s always keeping the best interest of the animals in mind and tries her best not to touch the whales she’s working with unless they are sick or stranded on the shore.
But in this case, it was the whale that came into contact with her. She noted that “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.”
Holding On For Her Life
The massive creature then began rolling in the water and nudging Hauser, churning her while simultaneously sucking her under. At one point, the whale even managed to tuck her under its pectoral fin, making her hold on for her life as it lifted her out of the water.
As the head of the Center for Cetacean Research and Conservation, Hauser knew that the last thing she should do is make the whale panic. Unfortunately, the whale started getting really aggressive now and she was scared for her life.
Prepared To Lose Her Life
The whale was getting more and more aggressive, pushing Hauser incredibly roughly in the water. While the whale had only been toying with Hauser for 10 minutes, to her, it felt like a lifetime. At one point, the veteran diver even admitted, “I was prepared to lose my life.”
She continued, “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 […} f he held me under his pectoral fin, I would have drowned.”
Staying Calm In The Face Of Danger
Hauser claimed that she “didn’t want to panic because I knew that he would pick up on my fear.” While she was usually at peace around these animals, this was the scariest situation she had been in with one of them.
Her next step was to figure out how to get away from the whale. Although she had her team with her, there wasn’t much that they could do to interfere with a 25-foot long whale. All they could do was watch in horror and hope for the best.
The Whole Thing Was Caught On Film
Since the team was doing research, Hauser and a fellow diver had been recording the entire encounter. Both had cameras, so they could get footage as close up as possible. The other diver had never filmed whales before and didn’t realize how peculiar this behavior was.
Above the surface, the crew filming with a drone were worried for Hauser’s life and abandoned all the footage that had been shot. Hauser noted that they “did not want to film my death.”
Frantic And Afraid
As Hauser tried to calmly remove herself from the situation, she kept her eye on the whale to make sure that he wasn’t going to catch her off guard. After decades of diving without issue, she had never found herself in such a dire situation.
The whale had begun pushing her further and further away from the boat and she saw her chances of swimming away getting smaller and smaller. Because she was so focused on getting away from the whale, she had no idea what was lurking nearby.
They Weren’t Alone
During all the commotion, Hauser spotted another whale in the distance, miles from the shore. Much like the one she was currently dealing with, this one was demonstrating odd behavior as well and was causing a commotion, slapping its tail against the surface of the water.
The first whale hadn’t calmed down yet either and at this point, Hauser was beaten and battered. But then, a third figure began to make itself present from the deep. Hauser assumed that it was another whale until she realized what it really was.
It Didn’t Look Like A Whale
While Hauser was trying with all of her energy to get away from not one but two whales now, she started swimming toward the safety of her team’s boat. After taking her eyes off of the whale to check her surroundings, she made a horrifying discovery.
She realized that the tail of the third form in the water was moving from side to side and not up and down like whales’ tails do. Being an experienced marine biologist, she knew exactly what was lurking nearby.
A Terrifying Realization
As the third creature began making its way toward Hauser, she realized that the troubles with the whale were becoming the least of her worries. It was no whale, and it was coming straight at her.
She recalled, “So my mind quickly went, ‘Oh, my gosh!'” But as an expert in marine biology, she could tell what most animals are just by their outline or shape. What was coming towards her was one of the most feared fish in all of the ocean. It was a tiger shark.
A Ruthless Predator
Understandably, Hauser was terrified. After studying the ocean her whole life, she knew exactly how aggressive, fearsome, and deadly tiger sharks are. They have the potential to grow up to 25 feet and weigh almost a ton. This dangerous man-eating shark is second only to the great white shark in fatal attacks on humans.
They can typically be found in the warm waters of the Pacific islands, but they aren’t like great whites which will bite and then retreat. These sharks hunt to kill, and one was coming right toward Hauser.
A Deadly Situation
Hauser was now surrounded by three unpredictable creatures, one of which was known to frequently kill humans. Now, she was far less concerned with her problems with the whales and all of her attention was now focused on the shark that could easily attack and kill her.
With few options left and only moments to spare, Hauser did the only thing that was left to do. She and her fellow researcher, a cameraman, made a break back toward the research boat.
Relieved To Be Alive
Everyone was relieved once the two divers managed to escape the shark and make it to the safety of the boat. As Hauser reached the boat, she warned the rest of the crew on board that there was a large tiger shark in the water.
Although exhausted and slightly bruised up, Hauser managed to pull herself onto the deck, thankful to be alive. After catching her breath, it suddenly dawned on her what the first humpback whale had been doing.
A Moment Of Reflection
After calming down, Hauser sat down and watched the footage of her whole ordeal in the water. It was then clear what the whale had been trying to do. It seems that the humpback had actually been trying to warn her about the shark and to get her out of harm’s way.
She reflected, “maybe the shark wasn’t going to attack me.” Instead, “he [the whale] was trying to save my life.” She had just been through a once-in-a-lifetime experience that had been incredibly frightening as it happened.
Although Hauser was shaken, she was thankful to be safe and even more thankful for the whale that had been trying to protect her. While the whole crew was recovering from the ordeal, they couldn’t believe their eyes. The whale that had tried to save her surfaced next to their boat.
Most likely, the whale was checking in to be sure she was ok. It even gave a friendly spray from its blowhole before diving back in the water. Hauser yelled “I love you too” before the whale disappeared beneath the waves.
There Were Skeptics
Even Hauser admitted, “I’m a scientist, and if anyone told me this story, I wouldn’t believe it.” It wasn’t long before news of her incredible experience made headlines worldwide. Yet there were still some scientists who believed that what happened between Hauser and the whale was nothing short of impossible.
However, those same experts that claimed it wasn’t possible also didn’t fully rule it out. Hauser was confident that her footage proved that something amazing had occurred, something that she thought had never happened before.
An Experience Like No Other
For almost three decades, Hauser had conducted almost every kind of whale research. From population status and feeding behavior to migration patterns, she had done it all.
As she was so familiar with whales, Hauser was convinced that her footage was truly groundbreaking and captured a historical event. She believed that it showed the first-ever circumstance in which a humpback whale was trying to protect a human from a possible threat.
The Shark Wasn’t A Stranger To Those Waters
The news of Hauser’s encounter with the shark and whale spread quickly, especially in the local area. It wasn’t long before other fishermen and divers reported seeing the same shark that had been harassing Hauser and the whale.
Some other witnesses claimed that they’d seen the shark swimming near the reef and that it was nearly the size of a pickup truck. This made Hauser feel even more grateful that she had survived the horrifying dive.
Hoping For Change
Her footage of the whale and what it had been doing proved to be valuable research material for scientists and other marine biologists to study. However, there wasn’t footage of the entire experience, such as when the whale pushed her out of the water.
Nevertheless, her film and testimony helped other marine biologists and the general public gain a better understanding into the minds of these great creatures. Her experience was a valuable lesson to many.
Hauser would never condone untrained individuals getting into the water with humpback whales. But she does hope that her work will help inspire others to stand up against the poaching of whales and preserving the habitat of whales and all other sea creatures.
To express her point she stated, “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!”
Humans Have Other Friends In The Water
For centuries, dolphins have been recorded as being highly intelligent and caring ocean mammals. There have been numerous cases in which dolphins have behaved in ways that protect humans from dangerous situations. They’ve even saved human lives.
However, such cases are essentially unheard of when it comes to whales. Although Hauser has some of the only recorded footage, there is some scientific research that might point to humpbacks having extraordinary kindness when it comes to protecting other animals.
They Are Protective Of Their Young
During their migrations, humpback whales travel to the waters of the South Pacific to breed and rear their young during the austral winter. As a species, humpbacks tend to band together in packs, especially when traveling with their young. This is something that is common among other mammals around the world.
With this in mind, it’s understandable why the second whale was in the vicinity during Hauser’s experience. Although humpbacks were once poached to the verge of extinction, their numbers are thankfully on the rise. Now, to ensure their safety, they band together to protect their young.
Protectors Of The Ocean
Since humpback whales are omnivorous, they’re the furthest thing from being predators. In fact, they have even been described as protectors of the ocean and have been known to come to the aid of other species of whales, seals, and dolphins that are under threat by predators.
Nan Hauser explained this concept with an example: “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.”
Are Humpbacks Altruistic?
A 2016 study found 115 recorded instances in the last 62 years in which humpback whales have intervened in attacks in order to save their calves and other species. Humans refer to acts like these as compassion, but scientists refer to it as altruism.
While people like to associate animals with human behavior, Hauser commented that “I tried a lot not to anthropomorphize any of the behavior that I see.” Yet, her footage might prove that there is an argument for altruism among these whales.
There’s Still Some Debate
It’s possible that the whale thought that Hauser in her wetsuit was a seal or maybe even a baby whale. Regardless, Hauser claims that “whales truly display altruism – sometimes at the risk of losing their own lives.”
This is clear, given the fact that humpbacks are willing to hide animals under their fins and put themselves at risk to marine predators seeking them out. There are many recorded instances of this happening in the wild.
It Could Be Primal Instinct
Although how humpback whales behave toward other wildlife (including Hauser) is still not completely understood, people have theorized that altruism could be an instinct. After all, countless generations of whales have protected their young and their own kind.
It is further believed that they could be instinctively responding to distress signals from other species or just have an intuitive nature to protect. Although there appears to be no clear answer at this particular moment, it’s safe to say that Hauser’s experience helped open people’s eyes to the behavior of these magnificent protectors of the sea.
What Lies Below
Gary Grayson of Worsley, England is an avid scuba diver. He and a buddy decided to see what the Isles of Scilly had in store for them that day. The waters of these isles are often listed as one of the top places to go diving in the U.K.
One never knows what they might encounter below the surface. The Isles of Scilly are infamous for shipwrecks the tricky shorelines have caused throughout centuries, adding onto the list of what divers can explore.
A Surprise Appearance
When Grayson and his diving partner went beneath the water that day, it wasn’t ancient wreckage that caught their eye. Indeed, there were unique flora and fauna to examine, but that wasn’t what stopped them in their tracks.
Grayson and his buddy were taken by surprise when two Atlantic grey seals appeared out of nowhere. Some people might freak out at the sight since seals aren’t always as friendly and docile as we make them out to be.
The Best Action Was No Action
Divers are taught not to disturb animals in their natural habitat, especially since the results could be more disastrous for the diver rather than the animal. When Grayson and his diving partner noticed the approaching seals, they did their best to remain completely calm.
Most seals have a reputation among divers for being curious and playful, but some have been known to get aggressive with humans that seem threatening. Grayson tried not to appear as a threat.
Remain Calm And Still
While Grayson and his buddy remained calm, the two seals began approaching them. They remained as still as they could but knew this would be a great experience to capture on film, so they took out their camera.
Seals are known for swooping in from behind or appearing in the middle of thick kelp forests, just like the one these divers were near. The divers kept the camera rolling to see what might happen next.
Going Into The Unknown
Nature is inherently unpredictable, especially when it comes to the ocean – the largest natural ecosystem in the world. There’s still a vast amount of the deep blue that humans have yet to discover, so divers really never know what they’re going to get every time they go into the ocean.
Gary Grayson is known for his diving videography but this time he was the one who got to have the experience of a lifetime.
The Footage Seen By Millions
Luckily, Grayson dove with a friend who was there to capture the entire encounter for him. Little did they know at the time, they would be filming incredible footage that millions of people around the world would nearly lose their minds over once it went viral on YouTube.
Miraculously, the seals swam closer and closer to the divers as they continued to film. So close, in fact, that the infamous video begins with a seal right next to the camera.
They Were Just Babies
These adorable seals continued to approach and it didn’t take long for the divers to realize that these guys were mere pups. Once they recognized this, Grayson and his friend knew how important being still was in that moment.
They wanted the baby seals to feel safe and comfortable enough to stay lingering. Because they were young, the pups were likely more skittish and the odds of them swimming away were higher.
Warming Up To Them
The divers didn’t want to miss out on an incredible opportunity to capture these wild animals up close. Luckily, it wasn’t long before the seal pups warmed up to Grayson and his friend. The seals began encircling the divers, almost as if they were putting on a show.
Seals have an inquisitive and playful reputation. But what makes these particular pinnipeds especially peculiar is the fact that they each have their own personality.
Unlike Any Previous Dive
Most seals are generally curious and friendly creatures, otherwise, some are standoffish and skittish. Knowing this, the divers had to be cautious about what they were dealing with to protect their safety since it could’ve gone either way.
Even though they had plenty of experience under their belts, the divers were still apprehensive about the outcome of the encounter. Getting this up-close-and-personal with a wild sea creature wasn’t something they’d experienced previously.
Just Like Puppies
The seal pups soon revealed themselves to be curious types. The more they encircled and closed in on the divers, the friendlier they seemed to become. The divers were likely relieved and excited to know it was turning out to be a positive encounter.
These seals were just like rotund water dogs. They even have adorable puppy-like eyes that lure you in to play. The divers couldn’t have predicted what would happen next.
The Closest Encounter
Grayson and his diving partner could hardly believe what was happening to them. The seals were in such close proximity, that they were fully immersed in the moment. Seals don’t typically open up so fast, as they too practice an immense amount of caution to protect their own safety.
But to the divers’ shock, the seals swam right up to them as if they wanted to become friends! It was a rare moment that everyone around the world got to witness.
Meeting A New Friend
To the divers’ surprise, the seals got so close that they started to interact too! One of the seals started nudging Grayson and it appeared as if he was trying to hold his hands. The seal was holding out his flippers like he wanted Grayson to reach out with his own arms so they could play “Ring Around the Rosie.”
Grayson did at least shake the seal’s flippers as they met face-to-face.
Letting The Seal Take The Lead
After Grayson “shook hands” with his new underwater friend, the seal held onto his arm with its flippers. Because they had never had such a close encounter like this before, Grayson and his buddy just let the seals take the lead.
They were unsure of exactly how to approach the situation since most scuba divers aren’t avid animal trainers. Instead, Grayson continued to float still while the seal continued to rub its head and neck into his arm.
It Was Odd Behavior
Usually, when divers go out to sea with the intention of examining wildlife, they must swim for days with a pod of seals in order to gain the animals’ trust. Within that amount of time, the seals must determine if the humans pursuing them are safe to approach.
This is why Grayson and his diving partner didn’t make any sudden movements when they saw the seals. It was odd in the first place that they were being approached so soon.
A Sign Of Aggression
A seal getting that close to a human so suddenly is usually seen as a sign of aggression. Thankfully, Grayson and his buddy handled it so well that the seals ended up wanting to play! After nuzzling Grayson’s arm, the seal began play-fighting by nibbling at his suit.
Meanwhile, the other seal was comfortable enough around the humans to swim around them and mind its business. Perhaps it was looking out for its friend like Grayson’s was for him.
Exploring A New World
These seals swam gracefully in the water, which only added to the illusion that they were content in the presence of these humans. Usually, on land, they have to waddle around on their flippers and hop onto rocks or boats. But it’s underwater where they’re truly in their element.
After seal pups are born, they spend at least four months with their mother before venturing off. Perhaps these seals had finally left the nest and we’re exploring their new world.
This Seal Didn’t Hesitate
This playful seal pup obviously went against what was expected and swarm right up to Grayson. The creature immediately started sizing the diver up but once it realized Grayson was friendly, it didn’t hesitate to see how far things would go.
There were clearly no boundaries for this seal. After the seal nibbled a little more at Grayson’s suit and kept nuzzling its head against his hand, it ended up making a move no one saw coming!
Petting Like A Puppy
Grayson realized that the seal must have liked the feeling of being nuzzled. That’s when he started scratching the seal’s neck and head, just as if he was an actual canine puppy. The seal let Grayson continue to do this for a while.
For their part, Grayson and his diving partner couldn’t believe their luck! It was certainly a diving trip that they would never forget. But what really made it unforgettable was what the seal decided to do next.
Interpreting The Signs
After the hand-to-flipper shake and the nuzzle session, the divers were unsure about how much time they had left with these majestic sea creatures. Moments like these were especially fleeting, so it was great that they were able to capture everything on film.
At any second, the seals could’ve decided to swim away but after everything that had already happened, things were apparently just getting started. The seal started making movements he wanted Grayson to interpret.
Grayson Couldn’t Figure It Out
As Grayson continued to scratch its neck, the seal kept inching closer and closer to the sea floor as if it was trying to tell him something. It continued to nibble at Grayson’s glove in an effort to get him to do what it wanted, but it was up to Grayson to figure out exactly what that was.
This went on for a few minutes until finally, the seal made everything clear.
He Finally Figured It Out
Eventually, the seal turned over on its back. At that point, it was obvious what the seal wanted Grayson to do. Apparently, Grayson’s petting skills were so excellent that this seal wanted him to rub his belly!
It was amazing that this seal was exhibiting such qualities! This would be normal behavior for your average dog or cat, but the fact that a seal likes belly rubs too only goes to show how universal the feeling is among animals.
The Seal Was Loving It
Grayson’s belly-rubbing skills were so good, that you can see the seal flapping his flipper over the diver’s hand in approval. It was a darling sight to see, especially since the seal’s flabby coat moved along with the waves.
The seal remained on its back for some time, clearly enjoying the feeling. If anything, it only made the seal more playful as he snapped back up to make another move!
He Wanted To Play Some More
After the seal decided it was done with its belly rubs, he swam back up to face Grayson. Grayson’s hand moved underneath the seal’s chin and began scratching. The seal apparently loved that too, as the video shows it smiling as it is happening.
But soon, the seal became more lively and wanted to play some more with its new friends. At that point, it began playfully nibbling at Grayson’s glove and even had his hand in its mouth!
The Second Seal
In the video, Grayson looks at his friend with a smidge of concern on his face the more the seal began biting at his hand. Luckily, the bites didn’t appear to forceful and it seemed the seal was just trying to play with him some more.
Grayson then decided to let the seal do its thing. Meanwhile, the second seal thought it was his turn to get some action and started sniffing at Grayson’s feet.
Playtime Was Over
Eventually, the first seal grew tired of the fun and games. It was obviously grateful for the belly rubs but as the diver continued to pet its coat, the seal started to swim away. At that point, it’s seal companion noticed and knew it was time to go.
The divers watched the seals swim away but were ultimately enthusiastic about the entire experience. Of course, they couldn’t have predicted how viral the encounter would become.
He Was Absolutely Loving It
Grayson’s video soon gained international buzz and of course, he was asked about the experience. He told media outlets that he was “absolutely loving it” the entire time it was happening.
“I had seen other seals in the water but they just buzzed past us. None was as inquisitive as [this seal] was, and none as friendly,” Grayson told the Manchester Evening News. The 55-year-old businessman had quite a story to tell.
“We Were In Their World”
Most people might not know how to react in such a situation, but Grayson and his buddy handled everything exactly as they should have. “We were told just to sit on the bottom of the kelp but the more still we were the more inquisitive this seal was because we were in their world,” Grayson said.
Even though they tried not to seem threatening, their stillness apparently was a source of intrigue for the seals.
“I Have Never Known Anything Like That”
For his part, Grayson admits that as a seasoned diver, he has really never had an experience quite like what he did with the seals at the Isles of Scilly that day.
“The grey seal came across and had five minutes with me, kind of thing. Then another was climbing up my leg. I’m an experienced diver but I have never known anything like that. I’ve been all over the world, to Mexico and Cuba, to dive with great big mantras and sharks,” he added.
The Experience Of A Lifetime
Grayson and his diving partner may have been a bit startled at first, but that’s likely because they weren’t expecting the seals to interact with them. “I’m not one to frighten easy,” Grayson told M.E.N.
He added, “If the truth be told, I’m a bit of an [adrenaline junkie]. Before that, I was into sky-diving, I had done aerobatics. I tend to live life on the edge. But this was certainly up there with anything I have ever done.”