Tell us a Whale Story

photoAs part of the 20th Anniversary Celebration of the Whale Foundation, we are collecting Whale stories! Any story that you have about Curtis “Whale” Hansen, let ’em rip.

If you have a story about Whale, please email it to and we will post them here.

Have any great pics? Send them to and we will figure out a way to incorporate them into the website.

5 comments on “Tell us a Whale Story
  1. Pam Quist says:

    I have a very short story about Whale that I think is funny and classic Whale.

    Here goes: on one of our trips with the Whaler we were rowing into Pearse Ferry, the Whaler was telling the folks on his boat what to expect when we got to shore. In the course of the narrative he told the folks that there would be a bus there to take them back to ‘lost wages ‘ and that the crew would stay behind and de-rig the boats at the hottest place on earth. Immediately a lady on the boat said ” I thought Death Valley was the hottest place on earth! Whale replied ” Don’t know Mam, I’ve never de-riged at Death Valley”

  2. Bart Henderson says:

    The Bobtail in Crystal…

    No shit there we were… around 1972, me riding with Whale in his infamous bobtail rig heading into Crystal in relatively high water . Whale had been bragging about his new rig telling me how much fun it was to run, how quick it was, how maneuverable, etc., etc. We were both on run outs having dropped the passengers off at Phantom, so I let my swamper run my boat and I jumped on with Whale to see just how much fun his bob tail was.

    Just as we entered the rapid, the old Merc 20 sputtered a bit as whale twisted the throttle, and we both looked down at the engine then at each other and laughed one of those “please don’t fail me know kind of chuckles”. The engine revved up to full throttle as whale began to cut across the tongue headed for the marker rock, the one that we used in those days to catch the nose of the boat and spin around so that we could back down through the narrow gap between the old Sate Creek Hole and the shore.

    The engine was working fine but unfortunately Whale’s timing wasn’t . As the boat spun around much higher than the marker rock I knew we might be in trouble. Then Whale had to quickly pull the engine to avoid a shallow rock, he dropped it back in and twisted the throttle handle desperately needing to move the bobtail further right into the slot, but again that nasty little sputter, but this time it was slightly longer before the engine wound up to full power, and at that point partial seconds mattered.

    There is that point in a rapid where you can see that you are going to make the cut or you are not, and we were at that point. I looked at the gargantuan hole then at Whale and we both cracked up laughing knowing we were about to back into the biggest hole in the universe in a bob tail rig!

    In case you don’t know what that bobtail rig was, it was an old military 33 foot Hatch rig, but the entire back round of the boat had been removed. It had been removed because on a previous trip whale had wrapped on a rock and in an attempt to free the boat they had tied a rope around the back round of the boat and then tied it to another motor rig up stream. The idea was to run the second boat down stream past the stuck boat and use the momentum of the boat to yank Whale off the rock. I don’t remember if the maneuver actually got him off the rock or not, but when the second boat hit the end of the rope it ripped clear through the end of the boat. The bobtail rig was what was salvaged of the boat.

    So, no shit, there we were… Whale and I about to plunge into the Slate Creek Hole with only the engine between us and that immense wall of frothy white water. At the last possible moment whale grabbed the engine, tilted it up with one hand and grabbed his bucking strap with the other hand, and then it all went dark for the longest time. When the lights came on again and the water cleared off my face enough to see that we were on top of the hole there was that initial hoot of triumph, but then we realized that we were not moving downstream, a really bad feeling at that point. We hovered there a moment then dropped back sideways into the hole, I was sure we would flip, but we bounced violently a couple of times in the hole and then the nose of the boat caught the current and we cart wheeled out of the hole and headed toward the rock island.

    We both knew we had dodged a major bullet that time. Luckily that sputtery Merc 20 fired up on the second pull and we were able to miss the island and catch the eddy at the bottom. It was one of those adrenalized moments when it just seemed appropriate to chug a couple of beers and have a big laugh knowing that we had just created one of those great stories that we were going to be able to share for the rest of our lives.

    I sure wish he was still here to tell his side of that story.

  3. Connie Tibbitts says:

    Does anyone remember Whalers bumper sticker on his VW van?


  4. scott davis says:

    I have always felt honored to be a close friend of Whale’s. We both worked for Hatch, and we had neighboring RV’s/trailers at Cliff Dwellers lodge next to the Hatch warehouse. Some of the funnest, most rewarding, interesting and great times in my life for sure. Whale was always there for his friends, listening to their trials and tribulations of their lives, extreme patience, easy to hang out with, funny as hell, and always offered the Whale perspective. Many of us and his friends really relied on the Whale for sure.
    I could write chapters of material with my experiences with the Whale. But this is the one that first came to mind, which I will always remember and cherish.
    It was 1984 or so, I was swamping for Whale and we had just dropped off a group at Phantom Ranch and were waiting for the new group to come in, a full exchange as we call them. We decided we would check in with the office and found out that the majority of the trip had canceled and we only had one person on the trip coming in. Our imaginations went wild with who this might be, and who showed up was far from any of our thoughts.
    He was a middle aged gay, fashion designer from New York City, looked alot like Danny Devito and this was his biggest outdoor adventure of his life. While waiting for our one and only client, Whale slipped off the running board on the duffel frame and caught his big toe nail underneath a D-ring. Stood that toe nail straight up and a Whale scream followed by intense profanity. We both knew what was next, he had to go back to his motorwell, bring out the channel locks, and yank the ugly toe nail off. Yikes!! If any of you remember Whale had the nastiest big toe nails out there.
    Whale was not much of a hiker and I knew that Whale was not coming off the boat for the rest of trip. Day tripper in the motorwell and meals served to him by me! Well, it didn’t quite work out that way. Whale was truly a celebrity in the canyon, and we stopped in on various trips to camp with them, have dinner with them and then breakfast too. I never cooked a single meal, nor did I really have to entertain our one client. It was great, I got to know new guides, listen to countless Whale stories, all the time knowing that “Danny” was well taken care of in the various camps.
    I did take Danny on several hikes and that worked out fine. But Ted Hatch had worked out some sort of deal for the helicopter service at the end of trip. It was scheduled to be above Lava Falls at the old helicopter pad on river left, around 4:30 pm. We were hanging out on river right in the shade, breaking the news to Danny, that he didn’t get to run Lava Falls, “What the hell?”
    We here the chopper coming, but they did not see us in the shade and flew right off the water level at high speed over us. “Did they see us? Was that our chopper?’ Well, we motored over to the other side of the river with our disappointed client and I start taking the bags up to the old helicopter pad with Danny. The chopper did not come back for 20 minutes and flew all the way up to Havasu buzzing multiple camps and river parties. OOPPS!!
    When it does come back it is actually a pink helicopter with CIRCUS CIRCUS graphics all of it. Wow so apropos for this trip, loading Danny onto a Circus Circus ship and flying directly back to Vegas. This was a classic end to this trip with Whale, and as always he just took it in stride. Scott get on the boat, we’re going to Pearce!

  5. Mimi Murov and Tom Brownold says:

    4 Short Whale Stories
    First Story

    In 1989 I had the chance to kayak the Grand Canyon for the first time. It was a private trip with only hard shell kayaks. We mostly packed our boats like backpackers but when asked, Whale was more than happy to take a couple of extra five gallon buckets on his motor rig to stash for us just prior to our put in. I gave him two five gallon paint buckets with tight lids full of extra food and we agreed on where the stashes would be located. Both stashes were right where we expected them. Whale had left a note drawn on the lids of each in indelible marker. He noted the dates our trip planned to remove the contents and then the dates that the empty buckets would be removed entirely (myself and another person on the trip had rowing trips shortly after our kayak trip so we planned to retrieve the buckets then.) What we didn’t expect was how Whale signed each of these notes. His message was clear : “Do not remove or I will break your fingers, Whale”

    So, even though we had no raft support immediately with us on the river, we had the full support of The Whale. Later that summer I was able to stop by Hatch to thank him and give him a book – the twinkle in his eye and grin on his face were spontaneous as he told me of writing the notes and making the stashes…and he said it was true, he would have broken the fingers!

    Mimi Murov

    2nd Story

    Whale lived up the hill from us for a while. Now and then we would hear a knock on our door in the evenings or night time and it would be The Whale. He always had a rolled up treat to offer and we were always happy to see him. Though the intial conversation might be centered around the river or skiing, mostly we talked about books and current events. He would stay for a couple of hours and then head up the hill for home. Sure do miss those visits.

    Mimi Murov and Tom Brownold

    3rd story

    Whale’s skills as a snow cat driver are of course legendary and I know of several winters at the Snowbowl where he and others worked miracles making skiable terrain out of dismal amounts of snowfall. I only saw him in action in his cats during the day time though. When there was enough snow, Tom and I would hike up the Snow Bowl prior to them opening, to make our first runs of the year. Invariably Whale would be in a snow cat and recognize us and stop. It didn’t matter if we were on a steep or low gradient slope, whether we were heading up or skiing down, he would always stop, open the door with a big wide grin and give a big hello. We were just as excited to see him though sometimes I was a bit nervous about getting too close to the cat on some of the steeper angles. He exuded the confidence that he was one with that machine so my reservations melted with his greetings. Can still his laughter from those cold unexpected rendezvous.

    Mimi Murov and Tom Brownold

    4th story

    Anyone remember the handmade sign Whale had in the back window of his Brat Subaru – a whale with a text bubble coming out of its brain saying “Save the humans”