Michael Packard, a lobsterman from New England has described what it’s like to end up in the mouth of a humpback whale off the coast of Cape Cod.
“Oh my God, I’m in a whale’s mouth and he’s trying to swallow me. I thought to myself, ‘Hey, this is it. I’m finally going to die. There’s no getting out of here,’’’ Michael Packard told a local news station in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
The Michael Packard incident
Michael Packard, a 56-year-old licenced commercial lobster diver, was diving for lobster off the coast of Provincetown, Massachusetts, on 11 June 2021. He dove 45 ft into the ocean to check a trap — when a passing whale gulped him down. He said he “felt this huge bump and everything went dark”.
The fisherman assumed at first that a great white shark had attacked him but he could not find any teeth. “It was happening so fast,” Packard said. “My only thought was how to get out of that mouth.”
Ingested partially in the gigantic mouth, Packard said he was continued to breathe into the regulator of his scuba tank, surrounded by a filtering baleen curtain. “I realised there was no way I could overcome a beast of that size. He was going to do whatever he wanted with me. He was going to swallow me or spit me out.”
Believing the end was near, Michael thinks of his wife, his sons, his mother, and the rest of his family. “Here I am, I’m breathing air. Am I going to be breathing air in this whale’s mouth until it runs out? Crazy stuff.”
After more than 30 excruciating seconds, All of a sudden, the whale tossed Michael out of its mouth and even out of the water.
Michael Packard’s crewmate witnessed the entire incident.
The encounter was watched from their boat by Micheal’s crew partner, Josiah Mayo. “It was just a huge splash and kind of thrashing around,” Josiah told 10 Boston. “I saw Michael kind of pop up within the mess and the whale disappeared.”
The boat captain Joe Francis told CBS Boston: “I saw Mike come flying out of the water feet first with his flippers on and land back in the water. 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!’”
After the incident
Packard had been admitted to the Hyannis Cape Cod Hospital and recalled the whole incident after his release. Miraculously, Michael only suffered a dislocated knee and soft tissue damage in his tangle with the humpback whale. And now he’s raring to recover and get back into the water, 10 Boston reports.
Even more miraculously, Michael survived another near-death experience two decades ago: he was severely injured in a 2001 plane crash in Costa Rica, suffering severe facial injuries and multiple broken bones in his arms and legs, according to the Cape Cod Times.
The Humpback whale
According to the World Wildlife Fund, the global population of humpback whales is about 60,000. They can weigh about 36 tons and can grow to as long as 50ft (15m).
Humpback whales do not eat humans. According to experts, this type of behaviour is virtually unheard of and is most likely the result of a freak occurrence — a fluke, if you will. Outside of Nineveh-bound biblical figures, there’s a good chance no one can match Packard’s story.
According to New England Aquarium marine mammal expert Peter Corkeron, humpback whales are “gulp feeders” who eat by unhinging their mouths and taking big lunges through the water. And when you’re 50 feet long and weigh 30 tonnes, as humpbacks can, you don’t always have a lot of control over where you’re going, he says.
The experience of Michael Packard
Packard’s son, Jacob, set up an “ask me anything” for his father, and answered some questions about his near-death experience.
Q: Was its (the whale) tongue smooth like a dog’s or scratchy like a cat’s?
A: I was in a dry suit, couldn’t really tell. Also, the mouth was filled with water.
Q: What was your ‘last thought’ when you realized you’d been eaten by a whale?
A: My wife and kids
Q: How long were you trapped? Did you think you might die?
A: (I was) trapped for about 30-40 seconds. Yes, I was almost convinced that I was going to die today.
Q: How did you get out?
A: Eventually, the whale managed to dislodge me by moving its head and tongue, I think.
Q: What happened after you got out? Were you able to swim to safety or did someone need to help you?
A: My mate pulled me out of the water back on the boat, thankful he was there.