"Oh my God, I'm in the mouth of a whale."
Those aren't the words commercial lobster diver Michael Packard expected to go through his head on Friday—or any day—but that's what he thought when he found himself swallowed whole by a humpback whale off the coast of Cape Cod.
Packard dives to the bottom of the ocean every day to collect lobsters, but he's never had an encounter like this one before. When he was about 45 feet down, he suddenly found himself enveloped in darkness. He told NBC 10 Boston it hit him like a truck, and for 30 seconds he was trapped inside a humpback whale's mouth. His scuba regulator fell out of his mouth, which caused extra concern momentarily, but he was able to retrieve it. However, during the ordeal, he was sure he was going to die.
"I just was struggling, but I knew this was this massive creature. There was no way I was going to bust myself out of there," Packard said. He thought of his two sons, ages 12 and 16, his wife, and his mother, believing he was going to die inside a whale and leave them all behind.
However, the whale thankfully decided that it did not actually want to have a human dessert, swam to the surface, and spit Packard out. "All of a sudden he went up to the surface and just erupted, and just started shaking his head, and I just got thrown in the air and landed in the water, and I was free."
It's the kind of story that seems too far-fetched to be believed. But Packard's crewmate, Josiah Mayo, was driving the boat and witnessed Packard's release from the whale's mouth.
"It was just a huge splash and kind of thrashing around," Mayo to NBC 10 Boston. "I saw Michael kind of pop up within the mess and the whale disappeared."
Lobster diver survives after nearly being eaten by humpback whale www.youtube.com
Dr. Iain Kerr is a marine biologist at The Ocean Alliance and has been studying whales for more than 30 years. He told CBC This Morning that this is the second time he's heard of something like this happening.
In fact, in 2019, wildlife photographer Rainer Schimpf found himself with his head and torso inside a 15-ton whale's mouth off the coast of South Africa, missing a story like Packard's by a mere few feet. That incident was caught on camera.
Both incidents were quite clearly accidents. In general, whales are not aggressive to humans and certainly don't want them as food.
"Basically, he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time," Kerr said of Packard's adventure. "I think he was very lucky. It could have been a nasty situation. But I am sure the whale was almost as freaked out as Michael was.
Packard was examined at Cape Cod Hospital, having sustained some soft tissue damage but no broken bones or serious injury. He says as soon as he is healed, he'll be back in the water catching lobster again.
And he'll definitely have one heck of a tale to tell the rest of his life.
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