In February, a group of whale watchers happened upon a humpback whale entangled in some nylon netting. The mammal was in grave danger and the group on board the small boat did everything they could to set her free, including getting on a snorkel, jumping in the water, and prying the netting off with their bare hands.
After a long struggle to release the whale from the nets, the triumphant moment of freedom came when the watchers were able to pull all the netting into the boat and witness the whale swim away. Cue that Michael Jackson song from Free Willy "Will You Be There," because it was an incredible moment. Not just because a group of caring and determined humans helped save a whale's life, but because the whale seemed to understand what was done for her and said 'thank you' the only way she knew how.
As she swam away to freedom, the whale seemingly couldn't resist celebrating her freedom with about 40 breaches and countless tail slaps. The people on the boat acknowledge that it was likely a show of pure joy, but could also be an expression of gratitude.
The cynic in me thinks that the whale maybe had a practical reason for all the jumps, like she was trying to shake off irritants left on her by the net, or because her back really hurt from being in the same position for a long time and she needed to stretch.
But the romantic in me thinks that the whale was 100 percent saluting her rescuers with her breaches and tail slaps; that her jumps were her way of saying, "Thanks guys! I couldn't have done this without you! Let me repay you with these great photo ops!"
One of the sweetest parts of the whole thing was what the little girl on the boat had to say about the whale's breaches: "I know what she is doing. She is showing us that she is free." And in that case, I couldn't agree more.
What do you think about this story?
WATCH the inspiring raw footage of the whale being set free: