A lobsterman from New England, Michael Packard, has recounted his experience of being inside 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 spoke with a local news station in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
The Michael Packard Incident
On June 11, 2021, Michael Packard, a 56-year-old licensed commercial lobster diver, was diving for lobster off the coast of Provincetown, Massachusetts. He descended 45 feet into the ocean to check a trap when a passing whale unexpectedly swallowed him. He said he "felt this huge bump and everything went dark".
At first, the fisherman believed that he had been attacked by a great white shark, but upon examination, he could not find any teeth marks. "It was happening so fast," Packard said. "My only thought was how to get out of that mouth."
While partially inside the whale's mouth, Packard stated that he was able to continue breathing through the regulator of his scuba tank, surrounded by the 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."
As Michael believed the end was near, he thought of his loved ones, including his wife, sons, 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 enduring more than 30 seconds of intense pain, the whale suddenly expelled Michael from its mouth and even launched him out of the water.
Michael Packard's Crewmate Witnessed The Entire Incident
The encounter was observed by Michael's crew partner, Josiah Mayo, who was on the boat at the time. "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."
Joe Francis, the boat captain, 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 and 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
After the incident, Packard was admitted to the Hyannis Cape Cod Hospital, and upon his release, he recounted the events. Miraculously, Michael only suffered a dislocated knee and soft tissue damage from his encounter with the humpback whale. He is eager to recover and return to the water, according to 10 Boston reports.
Furthermore, Michael had survived another near-death experience two decades ago. He was severely injured in a plane crash in 2001 in Costa Rica, suffering severe facial injuries and multiple broken bones in his arms and legs, as reported by the Cape Cod Times.
The Humpback Whale
According to the World Wildlife Fund, the global population of humpback whales is estimated to be around 60,000. These whales can weigh as much as 36 tons and grow to be as long as 50 feet (15 meters).
Humpback whales do not typically consume humans. Experts believe that this type of behavior is extremely rare and likely resulted from a one-time, unusual occurrence. There is a good chance that Packard's experience is unparalleled, with the exception of the biblical figure Jonah in the book of Jonah.
According to Peter Corkeron, a marine mammal expert from the New England Aquarium, Humpback whales are known to be "gulp feeders", they capture their prey by opening their mouths wide and lunging through the water. Being 50 feet long and weighing 30 tonnes, these whales may not have full control over their movements.
The Experience Of Michael Packard
Jacob, Packard's son, created an "ask me anything" for his father after the terrifying 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.