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Lobster diver says he was briefly trapped in a humpback whale's mouth while working near Cape Cod

swallowed by whale
Posted at 7:40 AM, Jun 14, 2021

A lobster diver working off the coast of Cape Cod says he found himself in a predicament of Biblical proportions Friday when he was gulped up by a humpback whale.

According to WBZ-TV and the Cape Cod Times, 56-year-old Michael Packard was diving for lobsters off Herring Cove Beach on Friday morning when he "felt this huge bump and everything went dark."

At first, Packard thought a great white shark had eaten him. But then, he realized he didn't feel any pain from sharp teeth.

"I realized, 'Oh my God I'm in a whale's mouth. . . and he's trying to swallow me,'" Packard said.

The experienced diver thought his life was over.

"I was completely inside; it was completely black," Packard told the Times. "I thought to myself, 'there's no way I'm getting out of here. I'm done, I'm dead.' All I could think of was my boys — they're 12 and 15 years old."

Packard estimates he was inside the whale's mouth for 30 to 40 seconds before the animal began shaking his head side to side.

All of a sudden, he was free.

"I saw light, and he started throwing his head side to side, and the next thing I knew I was outside (in the water)," Packard said.

The Provincetown Fire Department confirmed to WBZ that it responded to a call regarding an injured fisherman on Friday morning. The Times reports that Packard suffered "a lot of soft tissue damage" but no broken bones. He was released from the hospital later on Friday.

Marine life experts told the Times and WBZ that humpback whales are typically not aggressive toward humans. In fact, the Times reports that reports of the whales injuring swimmers and divers are "so exceedingly rare as to be nonexistent."

However, the whales eat by "gulp feeding" — opening their mouths widely to suck up their food. While humpback whale mouths are extremely wide, their esophagus is not large enough to swallow a human, explaining why the whale caught Packard spat him out.

Packard told the Times he plans to return to the water as soon as he heals.