Whale Asks for Help and Says Thanks

Whale in need of help

Last October I blogged about a wild dolphin that had asked some divers for help. They worked on it for a long time — under water — removing fishing line from it’s body and trying to remove a fish hook from a fin. The fishing line was so tangled the animal couldn’t swim well, and it’s life was threatened. They cut off the fishing line and tried to remove the hook from it’s fin, but it’s swam away before they could finish. Even so, they had untangled it; so it should be able to survive. I made this comment:

Why did it swim away before the rescue was complete? I have no idea. Maybe removing the fish-hook hurt too much. Maybe it could no longer control its fear of the icky humans. Figuring out why humans do what we do is difficult enough; reading the mind of a cetacean is even riskier.

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Here’s a story from Australia just a few days ago, about a huge baleen whale — thought to be a right whale — that seemed to ask some fishermen for help.

It was an insane sight for this group of young fishermen to behold: A massive whale swam right up to their boat and appeared to be quite friendly. However, the fishermen soon discovered that the whale was trying to send them a message: It had plastic bag caught in it’s mouth.

The bags became lodged in the whale’s mouth because they were entwined with fishing lines and stuck around his baleen. The whale was able to wave his fin as a way to ask for help, and luckily, these young men were able to assist him.



Note: Somebody involved had posted a video of the rescue on Youtube, and I had embedded it here. Now Youtube says it has been “removed by the user.” I’m sorry


Since the quote above refers to the whale as “he,” I’ll do the same. However, I see no indication that anybody actually determined his gender; so I dunno. Watch as he raises his massive head for the young men to remove the trash from his mouth.

Whale signaling for help with its fin

You can see in this picture that the whale seems to be waving his fin to get their attention, after first nudging their boat. Fins are good for that, but not much good for removing tangled fishing line and other trash.

After getting the fishermen’s attention, he raises his head out of the water several times to show that he has plastic bags attached with fishing line to the baleen in his mouth. The desperate creature then raised his head to them again — longer and more closely — so they could free it from the trash.

Ron Kovacs, who was fishing in a nearby boat, said the whale emerged near him first. He tried to help it, but his boat is higher out of the water, and he could not reach the creature. “He just popped his head up so you could reach out and remove the garbage,” he said. “He tried on my boat but we are a bit higher.”

Rubbish from the whale's faceHe continued, “I made one grab for the bag but missed. He was very inquisitive and more interested in us. You could see that big eye coming out watching us. They are not dumb for sure.”

Indeed not. The whale swam from one boat to another until it found somebody who could help it. That sounds like intelligence to me. Ivan Iskenderian shows the rubbish he pulled off the whale above.

Whale saying thanksAfter the men removed the human trash from the whale’s mouth, it swam away flapping its fin, apparently showing its thanks.

Michael Riggio, 17, took pictures as his friend, Ivan Iskenderian, helped the whale.

What a wonderful experience it must have been for those young men! “It was surreal, we couldn’t believe our eyes,” Ivan said. But what a horrible experience for the whale, undoubtedly knowing how cruel and dangerous humans can be! Could you seek help from a lion?

As I commented in the post about the dolphin, it’s dangerous to extrapolate human emotions, feelings, and reasons to members of another species; but they can’t be too different. After all, cetaceans — dolphins and whales — are large, complex mammals, as we are. And as I said then, “it seems to me this is one more in a long line of incidents showing how intelligent and sentient some non-human animals are.”



2 thoughts on “Whale Asks for Help and Says Thanks

  1. Ivan Iskenderian is a beautiful soul who was raised amongst pets as part of his family and throughout his life animals have always connected to him. That whale sought him out a week prior. Animals are intelligent and can sense pure souls – Ivan’s mum

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