Lobster diver Michael Packard claims he was completely swallowed by a whale off the coast of Cape Cod Friday morning. He has never experienced anything like what happened that morning in his 40 years as a diver. Packard was convinced he was going to die, and a captain who claims he saw the incident said Packard was lucky to be alive.
The incident started just as he jumped off his boat and into the water, he told WBZ-TV Friday. He "felt this huge bump and everything went dark." At first, he thought he was being attacked by a shark but soon realized that something even more astonishing happened. Packard quickly realized that he could not see any teeth. "Then I realized, 'Oh my God, I'm in a whale's mouth... and he's trying to swallow me," Packard said.
At that point, Packard thought he would die and he began worrying about his wife and children. But just as the darkest of thoughts entered his mind, he reached the surface. “Then all of a sudden he went up to the surface and just erupted and started shaking his head. I just got thrown in the air and landed in the water,” Packard told WBZ-TV. “I was free and I just floated there. I couldn’t believe. . . I’m here to tell it.”
While this all seems like a crazy story that can't be true, there were witnesses. Captain Joe Francis, who was leading a fishing charter near the incident, told WBZ-TV he saw everything. "He’s damn lucky to be alive," Francis said. "Then 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!’”
Packard's sister, Cynthia Packard, told the Cape Cod Times that Josiah Mayo, a crewmember on the "Ja'n J," the boat Packard jumped from, shared details of the incident. Mayo told Cynthia she saw a whale burst from the water's surface and he also thought it was a shark at first. "There was all this action at the top of the water," Cynthia said Mayo told her. Packard estimated he was inside the whale for 30 to 40 seconds before he was "flung" back into the sea. Mayo picked Packard up, radioed to shore and took Packard back to Provincetown pier. Once there, an ambulance picked him up to take him to Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis.
"Thank God, it wasn’t a white shark. He sees them all the time out there," Cynthia told the Cape Cod Times. "He must have thought he was done."
The whale was a humpback. "Based on what was described, this would have to be a mistake and an accident on the part of the humpback," Jooke Robbins, director of Humpback Whale Studies at the Center for Coastal Studies, told the Times. Robbins believes it might have been a juvenile feeding on sand lance. When a humpback feeds, it billows its mouth out like a parachute, which makes it difficult for the animal to see what's ahead of it.
Still, an incident like Packer's is incredibly rare and it would be impossible for the whale to swallow a human. "It is not something I have heard happening before," Robbins explained. "So many things would have had to happen to end up in the path of a feeding whale."