Watch: Staggering moment woman is saved from a deadly shark by whale – ‘He protected me!’

Nan Hauser with the humpback

Nan Hauser with the humpback

Saved From a Shark
Sam Montgomery

By Sam Montgomery

Published: 13/07/2023

- 22:52

Marine biologist saved by a humpback whale from a tiger shark attack

A nurse-turned marine biologist and whale expert has recalled a moment in September 2017 when a humpback whale saved her from a circling tiger shark.

In an encounter caught on camera, Nan Hauser was snorkeling in the waters off Rarotonga in the Cook Islands when she was spotted by a tiger shark.

Recalling the moment on the programme Saved From a Shark as part of National Geographic’s annual Shark Week, Hauser said of the shark: “It’s moving fast and it’s coming towards me.

“I know and the whale knows that this is a serious situation. I wanted to get out of the water.

“I suddenly realise that the shark is coming up. Right below me.

As Hauser flailed in the water and desperately attempted to get back to the boat, the whale intervened in the nick of time.

Hauser reflects how the whale placed her “right on the front of his face” and in a motion “pushes” her back to the boat.

With the tiger shark put off and Hauser on her way back to the boat, she is hauled out of the water and to safety.

She added: “I look and he’s right there next to me, protecting me. I cried.”

\u200bTiger Shark

Tiger Shark


Also in the film, the story of Martin Richardson’s shark attack in the Red Sea of Egypt is told.

Richardson thought he was dead when he was attacked by a shark while swimming.

He said: "I had lost approximately five pints [2.8 litres] of blood. You only have eight to nine [pints, or 4.5 to five litres] in your body.

“I was waiting for a feeding frenzy… I knew it was circling me… I turned away and looked at the mountains. I gave up.”

However, just as Hauser had a humpback, dolphins came to the rescue for Richardson, crowding the injured swimmer.


\u200bHumpback whale

Humpback whale


According to Floridapanhandle, a total of 1,225 shark bites and attacks have been recorded in the past 47 years worldwide, with approximately 14 per cent of those being fatal.

The United States has recorded the most attacks at 720, with a fatality rate of 6 per cent.

Meanwhile, Australia and Africa’s attack tallies of 261 and 72 are met by fatality rates of 23 per cent and 38 per cent respectively.

Florida Museum of Natural History’s Florida Program for Shark Research have put out research on actions you can take to reduce the already slim likelihood of an attack, including removing reflective jewellery, avoiding areas where people are fishing, leaving the water should you see abundant bait fish, and swimming in front of a lifeguard.

The museum also recommends refraining from wandering too far from shore, swimming in dim or dark light and swimming alone.

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