Cape Cod Diver Says a Humpback Whale Swallowed Him Then Spit Him Out

Illustration for article titled Whale Takes One Bite, Sends Man Right Back to Kitchen

Photo: Luis Robayo (Getty Images)

A humpback whale off the coast of Cape Cod bit off more than it could chew on Friday when it accidentally caught a commercial lobster diver in its mouth. Michael Packard told CNN affiliate WBZ he was diving off the coast of Provincetown, Massachusetts when he unwittingly became a modern-day Jonah.

I got down to about 45 feet of water, and all of a sudden I just felt this huge bump, and everything went dark, he told the outlet. And I could sense that I was moving, and I was like, Oh, my God, did I just get bit by a shark?

Then I felt around, and I realized there was no teeth, Packard continued. And then I realized, Oh, my God, Im in a whales mouth… and hes trying to swallow me.

Fearing he was going to die, his thoughts went to his wife and children. He estimates that he spent about 30 seconds in the humpbacks mouth, breathing all the while because he still had his breathing apparatus on, before the whale surfaced, shook its head, and spit him out. Rumor has it the whale was last seen submitting a strongly worded Yelp review about its experience.

Packard was rescued by his crewmate in a nearby boat, rushed to shore, and taken to a nearby hospital. Aside from being all bruised up, he said, he walked away from the unusual encounter without any injuries.

Biologist Jooke Robbins, the director of the Humpback Whale Studies Program at Provincetowns Center for Coastal Studies, said in an interview with CNN that the whale likely caught him in its mouth by accident as the species is not known to be aggressive.

We dont really see humpback whales doing anything like this normally, Robbins told the outlet. I think it was a surprise to all involved.

When humpbacks engage in so-called lunge feeding, she continued, they shoot forward in the water with their mouths open to quickly catcha large amount of food. In these moments, they dont always see what, or in this case who,theyre gulping down.

Robbins said that Packard likely wasnt in any danger of being swallowed though, because while humpbacks massive mouths can hold up to 5,000 gallons of water, their throats arent large enough to swallow prey much larger than their usual diet of krill and small fish.

Its a little like sitting down to a really nice meal, and into your mouth flies a fly, she told CNN.

Charles Mayo, another marine biologist at the Center for Coastal Studies, told the outlet that Packard was in more danger from the air pressure in his own lungs as the whale surfaced to spit him out.

If you come up to atmospheric pressure, and youve held your breath, you could develop an embolism, Mayo said. He added that to get out of such a situation unscathed, Packard, who is an experienced diver, must have relied on his expertise to remain calm during the whole ordeal. Well, as calm as you can be when you almost become a leviathans snack.

The reason hes still around is because hes smart, Mayo said via CNN. Hes a smart guy, hes a tough guy, and hes a lucky guy.

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