Like a story taken straight out of a beloved fairytale, we have played witness to the swallowing of man by a whale. This one-in-a-million chance was experienced by veteran lobsterman Michael Packard, just off the coast of Provincetown, Massachusetts. Experts say that while whales are gentle giants, he is lucky to be alive!
Last week, while out on his second dive of the day, lobster diver Michael Packard had an incredibly surreal experience involving a humpback whale.
Just off the coast of Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown, Massachusetts, Michael was swallowed by a humpback whale. He was diving around forty feet down when the fifty-six-year-old was picked up by the whale.
“All of a sudden, I felt this huge shove and the next thing I knew it was completely black,” the diver told the Cape Cod Times.
“I could sense I was moving, and I could feel the whale squeezing with the muscles in his mouth.”
Initially, Michael believed he had been swallowed by a shark, but he realized he had actually been consumed by a whale after feeling no teeth surrounding him.
Nonetheless, he was almost certain of his fate.
“I was completely inside; it was completely black.”
“I thought to myself, ‘There’s no way I’m getting out of here. I’m done, I’m dead.’ All I could think of was my boys – they’re twelve and fifteen years old.”
Humpback Whales are one of the larger whale species and can weigh up to thirty tons. Michael, clad in scuba gear, struggled inside the water mammal, which can grow up to fifty feet in length for around half a minute before the mammal ejected him back into the water.
“Then, all of a sudden, he went up to the surface and just erupted and started shaking his head,” he told WBZ-TV News.
“I just got thrown in the air and landed in the water. I was free and I just floated there. I couldn’t believe… I’m here to tell it.”
The moment of him being mercifully ejected back into the water is corroborated by Captain Joe Francis, who witnessed the event.
Lobstermen typically go diving in pairs, with crewman topside tracking the divers movements underwater by following the air bubbles.
“He’s damn lucky to be alive. I saw Mike come flying out of the water feet first with his flippers on and land back in the water,” he said, “I jumped aboard the boat. We got him up, got his tank off. Got him on the deck and calmed him down and he goes, ‘Joe, I was in the mouth of a whale’ he goes ‘I can’t believe it, I was in the mouth of a whale Joe!'”
Despite being in agonizing pain upon rescue, he was rushed to Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis and while it was first thought he had broken his legs, he was left with just a suspected dislocated knee.
He was discharged on the very same day but now, with an epic tale to tell.
And despite his wife’s pleas to get another job, he has no plans of giving up a forty-year career diving off Cape Cod.
Iain Kerr, the Massachusetts-based conservation nonprofit Ocean Alliance chief executive officer, explained to NPR how humpback whales tend to feed by opening their mouth wide to gulp down as much prey, small fish, or krill as possible. This type of “lunge feeding” speculated by experts meant that Michael had a one-in-a-million chance of being swallowed.
“To be clear, the whale did not want him in its mouth,” Iain added, comparing the situation to an open-mouthed biker accidentally inhaling a fly.
For example, had the whale closed its mouth out of fear, it could have broken Michael’s neck or back.
“But generally speaking whales are gentle giants, and I think all they ask from us is a little bit of respect of their time and space.”
We’re just relieved Michael lived to tell this mind-blowing tale!