Wave hello to a giant of the deep blue

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The Independent Online

In a spectacular image that highlights both the fragility of the human body and its ability to endure extremes, Tanya Streeter, world free-diving champion, swims with a whale.

Feeling like a "minnow" alongside the 40ft, 30-ton mature Atlantic humpback, the woman once described as the world's most perfect athlete risked being caught in the turbulence of its sail-like flippers to get up close.

Streeter, 32, joined the mammals in the shallow coral reefs off the Dominican Republic as they migrated from the Arctic to give birth in the Caribbean.

"You feel like a minnow. They're moving a lot of water and you can be tossed around like being in a washing machine," said Streeter, who has broken nine world diving records. "I went from someone observing whales to someone joining their world."

The images will be shown on BBC 2's Diving With Whales this Sunday. Streeter, who is British, wore a monofin and a special wetsuit for the dive. Descending faster than scuba divers, free divers use weights to pull them down and a balloon to return to the surface.

In 2002, Streeter broke all men's records with a "no limits dive" of 160m (525ft) in 3min 26sec. Her record was later broken by six feet by Loic Leferme of France.

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