Have you heard about the diver that was apparently got a helping hand, or fin rather, from a humpback whale? While out diving in the South Pacific to study whales, Dr. Nan Hauser had an encounter with a whale who she thinks was trying to save her from a tiger shark. When someone says whale saves diver not many people will believe it.
An Act of Altruism?
Humpback whales have been seen to save other species from predators from time to time but we don’t really understand their reasons. The same goes true when someone claims a whale saves diver from one. The nearly three-minute video, of Hauser’s ten-minute encounter with the humpback, doesn’t shed a lot of light on the situation.
During the video we see the humpback being fairly friendly with Hauser, even pushing her up to the surface and tucking her under a fin. But there’s no indication that the whale was trying to save her. In the video no glimpse is caught of the tiger shark that Hauser found in the area when back on the boat.
So does the story of whale saves diver from shark hold water? It’s hard to say really. Hauser, who has studied whales for twenty-eight years, first thought the whale was going to kill her. But then once she was back on the boat she changed her story to thinking it was saving her.
Safety in Numbers?
There is another whale in the background of the video along with another diver. Perhaps the humpback was thinking that there was safety in numbers more so than that it was saving a diver from a shark. With two whales perhaps the tiger shark might have taken a swipe or two for a quick meal. But with four animals in the area all together, the tiger shark might not have liked being outnumbered, or so the whale may have thought. Humpbacks do gather together to keep their calves safe at times, so that might also have been what was going on.
Scientific Community Differs on Opinions
Another scientist believes that the humpback may have been a female that lost a calf recently and was simply acting based on hormones that made her protective of other creatures. Yet a third scientist that studies humpbacks said that he saw no evidence of altruism in the video.
Whales are known to have friendly contact with humans and ships in the water from time to time. This could have simply been a case where the whale was just being friendly, and the tiger shark happened to show up after the fact. Without and real way of communicating with the whale at a meaningful level, it may simply be a mystery without an answer for the near future.
For her part, Hauser even stated that, had someone told her the same story, she wouldn’t believe it either. So, if you’re a scientist or not, it’s alright to be skeptical the next time you read Whale Saves Diver from Shark.