Return Home

Is This Whale Saying Thank You?

Monday, August 01, 2011 - 06:00 PM

In our Animal Minds episode, we met a group of divers who rescued a humpback whale, then shared a really incredible moment...a moment in which the divers are convinced that the whale found a way to say thank you. We obviously can't know for sure, and that question--how well can we really know the minds of animals?--was at the heart of the show.

We still don't have an answer to that one. But this weekend, a few listeners pointed us to a video of a different whale rescue. This one happened in February, 2011. Watch what happens after they free the whale. It’s kinda amazing. What do you think...does this count as an actual, quantifiable, cross-species thank you? There's no way to really, truly know...but what are your thoughts? Let us know.



More in:

Comments [11]


Thanks so much for this story and video. You ask, "What do you think...does this count as an actual, quantifiable, cross-species thank you? There's no way to really, truly know...but what are your thoughts? Let us know." I think we forget (to our detriment, I suspect) that there are ways to know things besides intellectually. (What does it even mean to "truly know"?) Our response to this communication from another mammal is instinctive — she's expressing the joy of being free, she recognizes that there's a connection between these humans and her freedom, and she's chosen to share that joy with them as well – which sounds to me like what we call gratitude. But (intellectually) we doubt our (emotional/intuitive) experience. Which leads to a very interesting question in and of itself: Why do humans choose to trust only the so-called quantifiable/rational/scientific, rather than our intuition, or instinct? I'm not saying quantifiable knowledge isn't useful or wise – it often is, and there's a reason we're so obsessed with it — but it isn't the only way of knowing the world. These interactions with whales are profoundly moving, even more so, I think, because in most cultures these days, we're taught that we don't have relationships with other beings in the world, or even that other beings in the world aren't beings (mountains, rivers, trees, plants, rocks, etc). But they are, and we do. Is trying to understand experiences like this through the lens of the quantifiable even the wisest thing to do? I don't know, but mysteries such as what the whale is saying may become less mysterious (or we may become more comfortable with the mystery) if we choose to value and tend to parts of ourselves besides or beyond the intellectual.

Jan. 05 2017 04:24 PM
Casey Rafter from Sacramento, CA

I cried at the beauty of the animal expressing gratitude. An animal that could easily use force without control or any idea of how powerful they are vs. how weak we are in the water. Such a beautiful moment on earth.

Oct. 06 2016 12:19 PM
Teo from EcoBoards from Jurere, Brazil

Awesome Story and great that no one got heart and not losses or accident happened while freeing her. They are BIG and anything can go wrong considering you were on a small boat.

Jul. 11 2014 09:08 PM
Amanda from Wales u.k.

So wonderful to them being helped by humans instead of destroyed !! Beautiful creatures , we should be making sure they grow in numbers , but humans are the cruel stupids ones on this earth !!!

May. 27 2013 07:18 PM
Bonnie Sauter from New Jersey

As an active advocate for animal rights/welfare, I am faced with so much sadness and negative actions by humans. This was so uplifting and beautiful, thank you so much for restoring my faith in humanity.

Jan. 25 2013 06:47 PM

I wept while watching this. There is no doubt in my mind that this joyful, gentle, creature gave thanks to those who saved it. The whale could have easily moved on, swam away swiftly, but instead, chose to stay in view and gleefully perform for its saviors. I'm so happy to have shared in viewing this experience,it makes me love whales all the more.

Apr. 24 2012 03:27 PM
skip Nichols from Walla Walla, Washington

I'm also a scuba diver, so first a huge thanks to these divers who helped in a dangerous situation.
Second, there's no doubt in my human mind the whale was communicating thanks to those who helped. We have this self-absorbed, narrow-minded obsession that believes we are the only intelligent species. The slaughter of whales is certainly wrong and ignores its abilities we cannot comprehend.

Mar. 24 2012 01:23 PM
kellie from toronto area

What a beautiful story.
made me a bit weepy with joy; angry at the carnage that doesn't end in beauty. Thank you for this.

Sep. 09 2011 07:52 PM

Came to the site to share the Whale Story with a friend, and got another one! THANKYOU!

Aug. 22 2011 04:07 PM
JT from Lebanon, TN

What an amazing story. So fortunate to share this with all of us. I applaud everyone involved that risked their life to save another.

Aug. 05 2011 02:52 PM
joseph from Toronto

Wow, that's beautiful.

I'd never know, but who's to say that cross-species thank-you's can't evolve? If all of us humans think that's beautiful, then we'd be more inclined to ... save whales that display this "thank you" behaviour, and I can see how cross-species languages could evolve.

Aug. 01 2011 06:55 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Supported by