The touching story of a desperate whale who showed love for some humans and taught a few life lessons.
Analysis: True story, though the inter-species pathos may have been exaggerated a bit in the telling.
According to local news coverage, it all began on Sunday, December 11, 2005, when a fisherman spotted a 50-ton humpback whale tangled up in crab trap lines off the Marin County coast in northern California. His call for help was answered by the Marin Marine Mammal Center, which dispatched a group of Coast Guard divers and whale experts to the site near the Farallon Islands to free the animal.
The rescue operation was both difficult and dangerous. Crew members found the whale entwined in some 20 ropes, each 240 feet long and wrapped so tight they were slicing into its flesh. The lines had to be cut by hand, which required diving perilously close to the whale and its powerful tail. It took about an hour, and no one was injured.
In interviews with reporters, some of the divers remarked on the whale's "affectionate" behavior. One said the creature watched and seemed to wink at him as he was cutting a line that went through its mouth. Once freed, the whale began circling and approached the divers one by one to "nuzzle" them. "You hate to anthropomorphize too much," Mick Menigoz told the San Francisco Chronicle, "but the whale was doing little dives and the guys were rubbing shoulders with it. I don't know for sure what it was thinking, but it's something that I will always remember. It was just too cool."