The Sunday Telegraph
Fisherman caught in a whale’s mouth
Lobster diver describes being nearly swallowed by a humpback off the coast of Massachusetts
‘Then I realised, “Oh, my God! I’m in a whale’s mouth. I’m in a whale’s mouth, and he’s trying to swallow me”’
IT IS perhaps the greatest fisherman’s tale ever told. Michael Packard, 56, a lobster diver in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, returned to port on Friday with the story of a lifetime. He had been collecting clawed crustaceans at a depth of 45ft when a giant humpback mpback whale tried to swallow him whole. ole.
“I was just about at the e bottom and I just felt this truck hit me. Everything went dark and I could just feel this hard stuff all around me,” Mr Packard claimed.
Initially, he feared he had been attacked by a great white shark, but he couldn’t feel any teeth or bite wounds.
“Then I realised, ‘Oh, my God! I’m in a whale’s mouth. I’m in a whale’s mouth, and he’s trying to swallow me,’” Mr Packard later told the Cape Cod Times in one of a string of intriguing interviews.
“I was completely inside. It was completely black. All I could feel was pressure and movement and this whale is swimming and shaking his head. I thought to myself, ‘There’s no way I’m getting out of here. I’m done, I’m dead.’” Mr Packard, who was able to breathe via his scuba gear throughout the ordeal, said he struggled as the whale dived.
But unlike the Biblical Jonah he didn’t spend three days and three nights inside. Instead, after what he estimated was 30 to 40 seconds, the leviathan apparently decided he was not a suitable lunch, surfaced, and spat him out.
“All of a sudden he went up to the surface and erupted. I saw light, and he started throwing his head side to side, and the next thing I knew I was outside,” said Mr Packard. “I just got thrown in the air, and landed in the water and I was free and I just floated there. I couldn’t believe I got out of that. And I’m here to tell it.”
He later posted on Facebook: “A humpback whale tried to eat me. I am very bruised up but have no broken bones.” With local press swarming around him, Mr Packard told CBS Boston: “There was no overcoming a beast of that size. He was going to do with me what he wanted, either spit me out or swallow me. Crazy stuff.”
His boat was near a fleet of vessels catching striped bass. Captain Joe Francis, on a charter close by, told WBZ-TV News: “I saw Mike come flying out of the water feet first with his flippers on and land back in the water. 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.’”
Mr Packard, who has been diving for 40 years, was then rushed to shore by his crewman Josiah Mayo. Charles “Stormy” Mayo, a marine biologist at the Center for Coastal Studies, and father of Josiah Mayo, was there as Mr Packard was brought ashore.
Mr Mayo told CNN for the whale it would have been “like sitting down to a really nice meal, and into your mouth flies a fly”. He said the biggest danger for Mr Packard would have been the air expanding in his lungs as the whale went back to the surface.
Mr Packard was taken to Cape Cod Hospital and later released with nothing worse than a temporary limp. Marine mammal experts said that the whale was probably a confused juvenile. Humpbacks, which feed on krill, can grow to more than 50ft in length and weigh up to 30 tonnes.
When the animals feed, they flare out their mouth and lunge forward to gulp up large amounts of water. “They rush forward, open their mouth and engulf the fish and the water very quickly,” said Jooke Robbins at the Center for Coastal Studies. “When they do that, they don’t necessarily see everything.”
But while their mouths are large, their oesophagus is too narrow to swallow a human.
Last Friday, Michael Packard, a lobster fisherman, dived off his vessel, felt a “huge bump” – and then “everything went dark”. Fearing that he had been swallowed by a shark, he felt for teeth and found none. It seemed more likely that he was inside the mouth of a whale, a theory confirmed when the mammal burst onto the surface and ejected Mr Packard into the fresh air. “I couldn’t believe it,” he said, but, “I’m here to tell it.” So is the whale, which has sold its story to Hollywood. “I felt something land in my mouth,” he told Good Morning Plankton, “and was worried it might be a shark, so I spat it out.” Health officials say this is one more reason always to wear a mask.