Three whale watchers got more than they bargained for when they found themselves in the throes of an hour-long struggle to free a humpback whale from a tangled mass of fishing nets. The dramatic scene, captured on film, happened off the coast of California.
According to The Daily Mail, the three men initially thought the whale was dead it let out a loud breath through its blow hole.
Michael Fishbach reportedly then decided to enter the water and snorkel alongside the distressed creature:
He said: "As I swam alongside the animal our eyes met.
There were no words we could share but I wanted to let the whale know that we were there to help.
It took some effort to stay focused given the great emotion of the moment.
The sight of this large and beautiful creature trapped and so close to death was almost overwhelming."
'I must admit I was a bit scared because I knew the whale was frightened and fatigued but could still kill me with one panicked movement.'
According to the Mail, the whale was so entangled its body was weighed down by about 15 feet but with elbow grease, the trio eventually untangled one of the fins. Apparently, the whale then sensed its fin had been freed and swam away, pulling the boat with it! Soon after it returned and the men were able to work on cutting away the remaining nets until the whale was completely free.
What came next was a sweet reward I'm sure even the whale watchers weren't expecting:
For the next hour they watched the whale breach around 40 times and then dive down waving its tail above the water.
Michael said: 'We all believed it was a least a show of pure joy, if not thanks.
'We were all proud and thrilled that we saved this fantastic young life.
'It was an incredible experience that none of us will ever forget.'
On the video a small girl can be heard saying: 'I know what she is doing. She is showing us that she is free.
Her mother replies to her: 'I think she is showing us a thank you dance.'
ITN News provides the video:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/v/Pa-xZueGyjM?version=3&hl=en_US expand=1]