humpback whale rescue


If you have asked me just a week ago what was the coolest thing I have ever seen, my answer would have been: I spent a week diving around Cocos Island with hundreds of hammerhead sharks when on the last day of our trip an entourage of dolphins were leading up a humpback whale mama and her baby, followed by an army of silky and grey sharks. They passed so close to me, I could have touched them.   


I have never imagined that anything could top that experience, but as it turned out, Costa Rica revised my list of the “coolest thing I have ever seen.”


It started just like any ordinary dive holiday day. We were on our way to Catalinas Island to swim with turtles, mantas, sharks and all the usual suspects that one may encounter in warm waters when a fishing boat full of frantic locals approached our dive vessel articulating something we could not understand until they came closer and calmed down just long enough to tell us that a baby whale was entangled in fishing net and was unable to submerge due to the buoyancy of the plastic.


I heard the crying humpback whale baby before I saw him. Some people have problem with abandoned dogs or cats or starving children in some far away poor country; my weakness is creatures in the ocean harmed by us, people.


The sound of a human baby crying is nothing in comparison to the emotions and sounds this whale baby expressed while helplessly tried to go underwater. His mother was right next to him with another big whale, might have been the dad, not sure and could do nothing to ease the pain of her offspring.


I decided to jump in with the divemaster of the boat and try and get close to the whale and cut the net off his back. We approached the whale and shortly after I jumped in I noticed sixteen divers were floating on the surface with cameras and the whales were nowhere to be seen. We returned reluctantly and frustrated to the boat.


The captain maneuvered our vessel until we were right next to the struggling whale family again and firmly said “Nobody else goes in the water but my two guys.”


That was a clue for me to get my camera ready. I had a feeling that something amazing will happen that most likely never ever will I get a chance to witness again. My body was shaking, my arms and legs were covered with goose bumps in anticipation of what was coming.


We came up so close to the whales that the two guys landed on the back of the baby whale as they jumped off the side of our boat. The baby whale was the size of five double-decker bus  and appeared in a lot of pain from the exhausting battle to brake the surface.

The calf took off. It reminded me to a rodeo. The guys were  the cowboys trying to ride a wild horse.


humpback whale rescue


One of the Costa Rican guys were holding onto the dorsal fin with one hand while cutting the fishing net methodically as his body were totally out of the water in one second and we could not see him (underwater) in another. 


It just donned on me how dangerous was what they were doing when the frustrated, angry and protective mama whale moved closer. The sound she made was the crying of a mother while seeing her baby killed. She turned on her side, her body tensed and curled up. With one move she could have crushed the two guys into each-other.


She took a deep, investigating look and concluded that our guys were there to help her baby, not to harm him. She did not move an inch away from her calf while the rescue took place.


After all the net were cut off, the whales took one last breath at the surface and with a beautiful splash they descended into the big blue.


The passengers of the local’s boat collected the net onto their deck. It piled up to their captain’s knee. The small mountain contained about a hundred floating buoys and the net could have covered a football field.


humpback whale rescue


The impression of our whale rescuer guys’ face was indescribable. There are no words to express the glow that came from the experience they had.


humpback whale rescue


By the time our boat showed up at our dive site the news already have traveled and every boat on our way greeted our heroes with standing ovation and clapping of hands.


I have a feeling that it will be a very long time before something will top this journey on my “coolest thing I have ever seen” list.


Written by Szilvia Gogh, California. Photo Credit: Szilvia Gogh