If Northern right whales have an opinion of people, it's likely a negative one. For centuries, the species was a favorite target among whalers, a sad fact that has driven the whales to near-extinction. And although it may be impossible to ever fully make amends for that, one recent act of interspecies solidarity is proving that there are still brave ambassadors of our better nature.
While cruising 50 miles offshore of Virginia Beach yesterday, two local fishermen, Captain Pat Foster and his mate Adrian Colaprete, happened upon an endangered Northern right whale that had become hopelessly entangled in rope and was laboring out to sea dragging heavy fishing gear. After assessing the situation and determining that the animal would likely perish if left in those dire straits, the two-man team decided extend the whale a helping hand.
Armed with large knife and a GoPro camera (because, you know, why not), Colaprete donned his diving gear and waited for the 70-ton whale to approach him. Then, with a simple cut of the rope, the rare species -- one of just 350 in existence -- was freed.
"It was kind of scary at first, but it was real trippy," Colaprete told a local news station. "As soon as the whale caught up past me and I was parallel to its face and eye, it kind of stopped, which was a trip. He kind of gave me a little window to get down there [to the tangled rope]."
Although Northern right whales have slowly been making a comeback since hunting them was outlawed, human activity continues to be an inadvertent threat to their survival. Each year, biologists record around ten whale deaths from boat strikes and fishing gear entanglements -- no small number considering just how few of these creatures remain.
Thanks to the quick-thinking actions of Pat Foster and Adrian Colaprete, however, that grim tally will be less one whale.