They thought this whale was dead. Then something amazing happened and brought tears to my eyes

For one humpback whale who was in trouble, it looked like its life was about to meet a tragic end. Fortunately, a man who knew what to do and wasn’t afraid to do it happened to turn up just in time.

Humpback whales are amazing marine mammals. They’re also really big, generally measuring 40 to 50 feet long and weighing around 40 tons. When they surface to breathe, they don’t always keep it low-key. They love putting on a show by jumping high out of the water; whale watchers love them for this! The world’s population of humpback whales has rebounded in the last 50 years but even so, there are only about 80,000 of them in existence — by today’s standards, that makes them a relatively abundant species of whale. Still, they face serious threats from human activity, not the least of which is getting tangled up in fishing nets.

Michael Fishback is the co-founder of the Great Whale Conservancy. While out on the water one day, he saw what looked like a dead whale. When he hopped out of his boat and swam over to have a closer look, he discovered that the whale was alive but hopelessly tangled in a fishing net. He knew he had to swing into action right away: there was only so much longer the exhausted and frightened whale was going to be able to hold out. The next hour saw a heroic effort from Fishback as he cut the net and pulled pieces of it away until the whale was freed. Since it was Valentine’s Day, he decided to name the whale Valentina. But the really amazing thing came next: the whale put on an unforgettable display of gratitude, humpback style. Check out the video we’ve posted below.

Are you concerned about the well-being of the ocean’s gentle giants? Tell us all about it in the comments at Facebook. Be sure to like and share the story of this dramatic rescue!