There are many old tales of animals helping humans in marine settings — dolphins aiding swimmers off the coast of Greece, and seals herding schools of fish toward boats in the small islands of the British Isles.
Here follow two recent heartwarming tales of interspecies aid and kindness going the other way.
Tale the First -
In which a Number of Buck Deer Hitch a Boat Ride with Alaska Quest Charters, and are Not Even Charged Passage.
Four young black-tailed bucks swimming in Taku Inlet last October got in trouble when the winds came up, whipping the waves high and making the water freezing cold. As they shivered and lost energy and the threat of drowning from exhaustion and hypothermia became a real possibility, along came Tom Satre’s charter vessel. Uncharacteristically, these wild animals made straight for it.
According to the Juneau Empire, “This was the first time [Satre had] ever seen deer in this much distress. They were foaming at the mouth, and not able to make it onto the swim step, they instead swam under it. The group knew something had to be done.”
So they did what they would have done for a person: they helped the four young bucks aboard and warmed them up.
To get their chilled blood running again, the humans gave them massages!
Once the vessel landed, since the bucks were still too chilled to walk, the people carried them in wheelbarrows to safety on shore, waiting until they could stand and make it into the woods on their own.
How beautiful that these deers’ need was met in such a caring way!
You can read the full story and see a lot more pictures on Alaska Quest Charters’ website.
Tale the Second -
Whale Thank-You Kisses After Help
In December 2005, a 50-foot female humpback whale was likely enjoying another day of swimming along the usual migratory route, when she got tangled up in a knot of nylon ropes that link crab pots together.
A crab fisherman spotted her. Soon the captain of the whale watching/shark diving vessel New Superfish and other volunteers from the Marine Mammal Center were on their way.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the situation was like this:
[The diver] Moskito said about 20 crab-pot ropes, which are 240 feet long with weights every 60 feet, were wrapped around the animal. Rope was wrapped at least four times around the tail, the back and the left front flipper, and there was a line in the whale’s mouth. The crab pot lines were cinched so tight, Moskito said, that the rope was digging into the animal’s blubber and leaving visible cuts.
At least 12 crab traps, weighing 90 pounds each, hung off the whale, the divers said. The combined weight was pulling the whale downward, forcing it to struggle mightily to keep its blow- hole out of the water.”
Evaluating the situation, they realized the only way to save the whale would be to dive into the water with her and cut the ropes.This would be a very risky maneuver, because a single flip of the humpback’s massive tail could kill a person.
Moskito and three other divers spent about an hour cutting the ropes with a special curved knife. The whale floated passively in the water the whole time, he said, giving off a strange kind of vibration.
“When I was cutting the line going through the mouth, its eye was there winking at me, watching me,” Moskito said. “It was an epic moment of my life.”
When the whale realized it was free, it began swimming around in circles, according to the rescuers. Moskito said it swam to each diver, nuzzled him and then swam to the next one.
After describing his experience, it seems as though Menigoz may have suddenly worried what folks enmeshed in the industrial growth paradigm, where only humans get to claim consciousness, would think. Or perhaps the experts or reporters gave him the hairy eyeball.
Whale experts say it’s nice to think that the whale was thanking its rescuers, but nobody really knows what was on its mind.
But he still stood by the power of the encounter:
“You hate to anthropomorphize too much, but the whale was doing little dives and the guys were rubbing shoulders with it,” Menigoz said. “I don’t know for sure what it was thinking, but it’s something that I will always remember. It was just too cool.”
According to the Marine Mammal Center, this was the first time an entangled humpback was successfully freed on the West Coast.
The moving photo that has so often been paired with it is just as real, but according to Snopes.com (the best urban-legend debunking site ever), it shows an encounter that took place nearly four years later, between another (?) 50-foot female humpback and photographer Marco Queral in the South Pacific. Both photos here in this post show the two of them.
May we continue to hear of many more such episodes of interspecies aid and kindness — going both ways.