Spanish divers rescued a 12-meter-long humpback whale caught in an illegal drift net off the Balearic island of Mallorca in a heart-pounding underwater rescue.
During the rescue, Gigi Torras, one of the divers, said that this was the “best ever” birthday present for her.
She also thought the enormous beast itself had made a small show of respect for her.
She described it to Reuters as “It was like out of this world, it was incredible, just incredible.”
The sighting was just the third time a humpback whale has been recorded in the waters around the Balearics.
The Palma de Mallorca Aquarium marine rescue center was called in after a ship spotted the distressed whale approximately three miles (4.83 km) off the island of Mallorca.
They found the whale totally entangled in the crimson netting, unable to even open its mouth.
After early attempts to cut the net from a boat were unsuccessful, divers from the Albatros and Skualo diving centers joined the effort and dove into the water for a perilous 45-minute operation to remove the mesh with their knives.
Torras, the owner of the Albatrol diving ceter said, “The first ten seconds she got a bit nervous, you know, like bubbles everywhere, but then I don’t know, call me crazy but I think she knew we were there to help her and she just relaxed and we started working from the front of her mouth backwards.”
“We kept cutting and cutting and she kind of gave a little wiggle to get herself out of it,” Torras said
The animal lingered with the four divers for a while to gather her strength and even offered what appeared to be “a little thank you sign” before swimming off.
Drift nets were outlawed by the United Nations 30 years ago because of the large number of other marine animals that they also catch in addition to the fish that are intended to be caught.