Michael Packard, a lobster fisherman from Cape Cod with 40 years of professional experience was momentarily swallowed by a humpback whale, then spat out. Packard told WBZ, a CNN affiliate, that he had gone down about 50 feet when all of a sudden he felt a huge jolt before everything went dark.
Oh, my God, I just got bit by a shark, was my first thought. I groped around and realized there were no teeth and I didn’t really feel any great painMichael Packard, diver
Only then did he realize that he was inside a whale’s mouth. Packard mentioned that he was still wearing his breathing apparatus in his mouth when the whale swallowed him. He thought he could breathe but that sooner or later the air in the tank would run out.
After roughly 30 seconds, Packard reports, the whale rose to the surface and started bobbing its head. He was spat into the air and fell into the water. Packard was pulled from the water by a member of his crew, taken to the beach, and then emergency transported to a nearby hospital. In the end, he said he was all crumpled up, but in one piece.
I was spat into the air and fell into the water. I can’t believe it. And I’m here to tell about itMichael Packard, diver
Biologist Jooke Robbins, director of Humpback Whale Studies at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, said the unusual encounter was likely an accident. “We don’t see humpback whales doing something like this normally,” Robbins told CNN. “I think it was a surprise for everyone involved. Also for the whale itself.”
Robbins said that humpback whales, usually engage in so-called “stock feeding”, during which a fast-moving whale tries to gather a large volume of food in its mouth quickly. And when they do that, they necessarily don’t see everything. Robbins added that Packard was unlikely to be swallowed. Despite their huge mouths, the throats of humpback whales are not big enough for an adult human to pass through.
Charles Mayo, also a marine biologist at the Center for Coastal Studies, agrees. “It’s a little bit like sitting down to a really good meal and a fly appears inside your mouth,” he told CNN.
Charles Mayo, also a marine biologist at the Center for Coastal Studies doesn’t remember a situation where a fisherman ends up in the mouth of a whale. He added that Packard was in real danger, if not from the whale’s throat at least from the air pressure in his lungs when the whale emerged to the surface to spit him out. “If you reach atmospheric pressure and hold your breath you could develop an embolism,” Mayo said.