Stunning images show the moment that a 50,000-pound humpback whale pushed a snorkeler through the water to protect her from a nearby shark.
The pictures of Nan Hauser, 63, show how the massive sea creature pushed the whale biologist with his head and his mouth, then tucked her under its pectoral fin and even lifted her out of the water on one occasion.
However, lurking near the mammal and Hauser was a 15-foot tiger shark, as well as another whale that was moving its tail to ward off the shark.
The whale biologist told the Daily Mirror that she believes the moment in September reveals the whale’s intuitive instinct to protect another species of animal.
As Hauser returned to the safety of the boat, in the waters off Muri Beach, Rarotonga, the Cook Islands, the whale even came back to check on her.
Hauser, who lives on the Cook Islands, said to the Daily Mirror: “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.”
“I didn’t want to panic, because I knew that he would pick up on my fear,” Hauser told the Daily Mirror. “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.”
Hauser had never seen the whale before she entered the water that day.
On the biologist's nearby research vessel, Hauser's team was worried about her, abandoning their drone footage because, as Nan describes the moment, they "did not want to film my death."
Dolphins have been known to exhibit protective behavior and many stories have been told, but Hauser had never experienced something like that with a humpback.
For over 10 minutes, Hauser said, she was focused on the whale, unaware of the shark nearby.
“They truly display altruism - sometimes at the risk of losing their own lives.”
A surfer in Hawaii was recently left with a large gash in her leg after she was attacked by a tiger shark on New Year’s Eve.