Pushed underwater by a 50,000-pound force, she was buffeted about like a cork on the sea. The whale’s nudges became more urgent as her colleagues watched in horror from the boat.
For those terrible 20 minutes, Nan was helpless and completely at the giant creature’s mercy as he tumbled her over and over. But the reason for the whale’s behavior was about to make Nan’s situation so much worse.
As a young girl, Nan Hauser had always dreamed of working in the water with dolphins and whales. But her terrible seasickness and fear of the ocean made her career in marine biology seem very unlikely.
When she turned thirteen, she saw the video of a dolphin culling that changed everything. Instead of worrying about popularity like other girls her age, she made a dramatic decision that would change her life.
Leap Of Faith
Like so many people do, Nan put her dreams aside. Instead of pursuing marine biology, she chose a more practical career path — she would go to college and become a nurse. But, although Nan found immense fulfillment in helping people, she just couldn’t shake the inexorable call of the sea.
When Nan was in her thirties, she took a leap of faith. Now, she researches whales and dolphins in the Bahamas. She has been monitoring them for 28 years. But nothing could have prepared her for one unforgettable encounter.
The Fateful Dive
The dive started out just like any other. Nan anchored the boat and lowered herself into Cook Island’s sea. As she prepared to descend into the dark depths, a shadow in the distance started to approach; fast.
Her heart stopped as the shadow morphed into the silhouette of a whale. Little did she know, there was a possibility that she would be filming her own demise.
A Giant Humpback
Nan preferred the sea to dry land. She never felt at home on solid ground. She was her best self surrounded by marine wildlife, so she was no stranger to sea mammals.
This particular humpback weighed about 50,000 pounds. Nan had spent her life dedicated to creatures of the deep, but in all her studies, she had never encountered the shy humpbacks in person before. As if this one’s presence didn’t shock her enough, what followed was unforgettable.
The No-Contact Rule
Nan is an avid believer in not interacting with any animal in the wild. She has openly written about whale harassment and only initiates contact with the whales she studies if they are sick or beached.
She has educated the world throughout the years but this hatchback whale seemed determined to throw all her studies out the window. The whale greeted Nan by nudging her up and onto his head. Only armed with her camera and diving equipment, Nan began to document their meeting. But her studies never prepared her for this.
The whale began to thrash around before her, rolling and gliding through the water. Then, he began to nudge her. Accompanied by a filmmaker, 63-year-old Nan found herself frozen by the beast’s peculiar behavior.
It pushed her along the surface of the water with its head before rising for a breath, along with Hauser. The whale continued to follow her and for the first time since she was a child, she was afraid.
Nan attempted to remain calm. Although she was buffeted around with a gaping mouth that could swallow her whole, she went into survival mode. She thought of one single thing that could keep her alive—eye contact.
Highly sociable animals like whales and canines use eye contact to establish or challenge dominance. Up against a giant, this single response was all she could think of. But that didn’t stop this beast from pushing her further from her crew, and the boat.
On multiple occasions, Nan attempted to get back to her vessel. But on each attempt, she was interrupted by the humpback. The seed of fear began to sprout.
Her crewmembers, originally filming for a documentary, waited anxiously, fearing they would capture the end of a legend. Nan was as far from her comfort zone as she could be. But something else was keeping an eye on her.
A Dark Shape
Just as a second whale appeared out of nowhere, slapping its tail along the surface of the water, Nan spun around. One whale acting peculiar was rare enough. Similar behavior in a second was even more troubling.
A third figure began to take shape in the distance. But this dark shadow didn’t bob up and down like the humpbacks. This menacing monster swayed from side to side—a horrifying characteristic of one particular sea creature.
Nan couldn’t deny the truth. As a marine expert, she knew the shape of a shark when she saw one. But this wasn’t your average shark.
This was the second deadliest sea animal to attack humans and a common nightmare among surfers and divers alike. And the oceanic predator was coming straight for her at speed.
The tiger shark is one of the most feared animals for swimmers and aquatic life. Weighing up to a ton and spanning up to 25 feet long, this ruthless hunter is notorious for its determination.
Unlike other sharks that take just a taster bite before abandoning their victim, the tiger shark will continue to attack the same prey until the bitter end. Nan swam with more force than she ever had before. But the whale continued to block her.
Nan finally broke free and she and her cameraman pushed every muscle of their bodies as they made their way back to the vessel, glancing over their shoulders constantly.
She took a deep breath as her hand hit the solid boat. Arms and legs flailed as the crew dragged them from likely peril. Nan lay on her back, staring at the blue sky. Was she dreaming? Because something just didn’t add up.
The Whale’s Motive
Like elephants, humpback whales tend to stick together and even protect one another’s young. But protecting humans seemed unfathomable, especially as they were poached to near extinction just 45 years ago.
Thanks to people like Nan, who have dedicated their lives to protecting these animals, humpbacks may soon be removed from the federal endangered species list. But one question remains.
Nan has admitted her own awe and wonder regarding the encounter, “I’m a scientist, and if anyone told me this story, I wouldn’t believe it.” Her encounter has gone viral, leaving scientists around the world speechless.
She hopes the video will continue to spread awareness regarding the complexity of these mysterious creatures. The humpback whale had been trying to warn her about the shark.