2021: A LOBSTER diver was swallowed whole by a humpback whale and then lived to tell about it after getting spit out. Wearing scuba gear Michael Packard of Wellfleet Massachusetts estimates he was about 45-feet deep scoping for crustaceans when suddenly he felt a “huge bump,” according to an interview he gave to WBZ. When he came to he was surrounded by darkness.
Initially the 56-year-old assumed he’d been bitten by a massive white shark. But then he oriented himself and didn’t see any teeth. That’s when it dawned on him: “I realized ‘My God, I’m in a whale’s mouth. I’m in a whale’s mouth – and he’s trying to swallow me.” When the shock set in, a flood of fear came at him to face his mortality. “I thought myself ‘This is it. I finally — I’m gonna die,’” he told WBZ. Packard started to dote on his wife and his sons, 12 and 15 in that terrifying moment, according to the Cape Cod Times.
After about 30 to 40 seconds of being trapped in the massive beast’s maw Packard said some kind of divine intervention occurred. “All of a sudden he went to the surface and erupted and started shaking his head and I got thrown into the water,” Packard recalled in the interview with WBZ. “And I was free.”
When he was chucked out of the mouth like a sunflower seed shell and landed in the water virtually unscathed save for bruised legs, Packard was simply dumbfounded. “I just couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I couldn’t believe I got out of that.”
Despite his wife’s pleas to get another job, he has no plans of giving up a 40-year career diving off Cape Cod. Humpback whales can grow to as long as 50ft (15m) and weigh about 36 tons. According to the World Wildlife Fund, their global population is about 60,000.
Humpback whales tend to feed by opening their mouth wide to gulp down as much prey, like fish or krill, as possible, leading marine scientists to speculate that what happened to Mr Packard was in all likelihood purely accidental. One expert told the Cape Cod Times it was practically unheard of for a whale to swallow a human.
Humpbacks are not aggressive animals; reports of whales attacking humans are nearly unheard of, reports the Cape Cod Times. The whale was likely a young juvenile searching for food, reports Maria Cramer for the New York Times. “I like to think of it as a teenager or a puppy. It probably doesn’t know what it’s doing too well,” Mayo tells the Post.
He wasn’t swallowed in the true sense of the word. As Nicola Hodgins of Whale and Dolphin Conservation, a U.K. nonprofit, told National Geographic, while a humpback can easily fit a human inside its huge 10-foot mouth, it’s scientifically impossible for the whale to swallow a human, as their throats are only around size of a human fist, and only stretch to a maximum diameter of 15 inches.
Julie McSorley and Liz Cottriel were kayaking in California’s San Luis Obispo Bay when they found themselves inside the mouth of a humpback whale. The act was caught on video by people nearby. “It’s definitely woke me up to the realization that, you know, our place is not in the feeding zone of whales,” McSorley said in 2020. “We didn’t think we were that close, but we definitely were right in the area that we shouldn’t have been — so I’ve learned my lesson, big time.”
The caption is translated on Twitter, “A humpback whale swallows two women in California. The girls were kayaking when they were caught in one bite by the whale, who was behind a school of fish, the huge cetacean does NOT eat humans and in a few seconds spit them out alive LUCK.” The women didn’t suffer any ijuries and were treated promptly by witnesses present. World Nation News reports the throat size of a humpback is designed for little fish, so the animal can’t and won’t consume humans.
Image courtesy Personnel of NOAA Ship RAINIER via Wikicommons Public domain