A female humpback whale fights to keep her blow-hole above water as she is being pulled downwards due to crab-pot weights she is consequently tangled in. Over one thousand pounds hang off her entangled body as the nylon ropes, which string together the crab-pots, cut into her flesh around her tail, fins and mouth. She is spotted near the Farallon Islands, of the coast of San Francisco, by a crab fisherman early Sunday morning. It is extremely difficult to rescue a humpback whale, one sudden movement can accidentally kill the rescuer, due to her size and weight which averages about 50 tons. After radioing in for backup help a team of rescuers show up on the scene in the peak of the afternoon. It was clear that the only way to attempt to save the whale would be to hand cut all the ropes. Each diver carefully cut away each bit of imprisoning nylon as the whale patiently waited her fate. Moskito, one of the rescuers at work, mentioned she was radiating low vibrations as they worked. When it was time to cut the rope out of her mouth, she followed each hand movement with her eyes, as she curiously and graciously watched them work. Finally after an hour of work the humpback was free! She instantly began swimming in circles, overjoyed to be free again, and then something remarkable happened, something extraordinary! She approached a rescuer and gave him a little nudge, then proceeded to the next rescuer, and gave another nudge. She thanked, well, nudged, each rescuer individually before swimming off.
This provokes some challenging thoughts on the emotions of marine mammals. This is not the first time we have seen clear human-like emotions portrayed in these magnificent creatures. Dolphins in particular have the ability to understand voice commands, recognize themselves in mirrors and in pictures; they have even been used in military missions. Different rescues involving both whales and dolphins have been documented world-wide, often times involving rescuing humans from fatal shark attacks, protecting them in times of need. In 2009, a Beluga whale sensed trouble in a diver as she was participating in a free-diving competition. The whale gently grabbed her by the ankles and brought her to the surface, saving her from potentially drowning. Now, the real question is, why and how do they do this? Can they sense danger and then act upon it? Can they express true gratitude, sorrow and joy? Or do they just understand the true heartwarming theory of ‘all things are connected’? Do these marine animals follow the ‘good-neighbor’ policy that FDR once put into place? Could this be an unspoken mutual agreement of helping others in need, despite the difference in specie?
According to the article, Daring Rescue of Whale off Farallones, fifteen thousand humpback whales lived in the North Pacific in 1990. That number has since dropped significantly, leaving only five to seven thousand endangered humpback whales left worldwide. Unfortunately, the study on these magnificent and graceful creatures is limited, and now with the drastic decline in many marine species we may never have the chance to truly understand them.
“Daring Rescue of Whale off Farallones.” SFGate December 14, 2005: n. pag. Web. 5 Oct 2010. .