In a story reminiscent of that of Biblical Jonah, a veteran lobster diver was swallowed whole by a humpback whale on Friday off the Massachusetts coast and survived to tell the tale.
Michael Packard, 56, was diving near the Herring Cove Beach in Cape Cod Bay in order to pluck lobsters off the sandy seabed.
“All of a sudden, I felt this huge shove and the next thing I knew it was completely black,” Packard told the Cape Cod Times. “I could sense I was moving, and I could feel the whale squeezing with the muscles in his mouth,” he recalled.
“Then I realized, oh my God, I’m in a whale’s mouth… and he’s trying to swallow me,” he said. “And I thought to myself OK, this is it — I’m finally — I’m gonna die.” His thoughts went to his wife and children.
Packard estimates he was in the whale’s mouth for about 30 seconds, but continued to breathe because he still had his breathing apparatus in.
His struggling apparently did not agree with the marine giant, which then spat him out.
“I saw light, and he started throwing his head side to side, and the next thing I knew I was outside,” he told the local newspaper. He was rescued by his crewmate in the surface boat.
Michael Packard was diving off Cape Cod Friday when "I just felt this truck hit me and everything just went dark." At first he thought it was a great white shark, then he realized he was in the mouth of a humpback whale. Full story here: https://t.co/GMPEQsI3vV pic.twitter.com/7bzswu92YF
— NBC10 Boston (@NBC10Boston) June 11, 2021
Charles “Stormy” Mayo, a senior scientist and whale expert at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, told the newspaper that such human-whale encounters are rare.
Humpbacks are not aggressive and Mayo thinks it was an accidental encounter while the whale was feeding on fish, likely sand lance.
Packard was briefly hospitalized after the ordeal and apparently did not suffer any serious injury.
In the Book of Jonah, the Biblical prophet is attempting to avoid God’s command that he go and prophesize the doom of the city of Nineveh. As he sails toward Tarshish, a storm hits the ship and sailors throw Jonah overboard as a sacrifice to save themselves.
Jonah is then swallowed by a great fish. Spending three days inside its belly, the prophet prays to God and vows to deliver his prophecy, at which point the fish spits him out.
Humpback whales can grow to as long as 18 meters (60 feet) and weigh some 40 tons. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, their global population is estimated to be around 60,000.