Sunday, August 1

Diver survives after being swallowed and spit by a humpback whale

(CNN) — A Cape Cod lobster diver is safe after a chance encounter with a humpback whale that almost turns it into his lunch.

Michael Packard was diving off the coast of Provincetown, Massachusetts, on Friday when the whale surprised him.

“I dived into about 13 meters of water and all of a sudden I felt a big bang and everything went dark,” Packard told CNN affiliate WBZ. “And I could feel like I was moving, and I thought, ‘Oh my God, did a shark just bite me?’

“Then I felt around and realized there were no teeth and I really hadn’t felt a great deal of pain,” Packard said. And then I realized, ‘My God, I’m in the mouth of a whale. I’m in the mouth of a whale and it’s trying to swallow me. ‘

Packard, an experienced diver, told WBZ that he still had his breathing apparatus inside the whale’s mouth.

“One of the things that went through my mind was, ‘Oh my God, and if he swallows me, and here I am, I’m breathing air, and am I going to breathe into this whale’s mouth until the air is gone?’ “, he claimed.

“I said to myself, ‘Okay, this is it. I’m going to die’. And I thought of my children and my wife, “he commented. There was no way out of there.

After what Packard estimated was about 30 seconds inside the mammal’s jaws, he said the whale quickly emerged and spat it out.

“All of a sudden, he came to the surface, ejected, and started shaking his head,” Packard said. “He threw me into the air, I fell into the water and was free and I floated there.”

“I couldn’t believe it,” he added. I couldn’t believe I came out of it. And I’m here to tell it.

“A surprise for everyone involved”

A shipmate pulled Packard out of the water, quickly brought him ashore and he was transferred to a nearby hospital. In the end, Packard said, he was “all bruised,” but whole.

Biologist Jooke Robbins, director of humpback whale studies at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, said the unusual encounter was likely an accident.

“We don’t really normally see humpback whales doing something like this,” Robbins told CNN. “I think it was a surprise to everyone involved.”

Robbins noted that humpbacks often engage in so-called “ram feeding,” in which a fast-moving whale quickly tries to collect a large amount of food.

“When they do that, they don’t necessarily see everything,” he said.

He added that it was unlikely that they would have swallowed Packard, as despite their huge mouths, their throats are not big enough for a person to enter.

Charles Mayo, also a marine biologist at the Center for Coastal Studies, agreed.

“It’s a bit like sitting down to a good meal, and a fly flies in your mouth,” he told CNN.

Mayo said his son, Josiah, is the captain of the Packard ship, and is responsible for tracking the diver’s movements using his air bubbles. Mayo told CNN he was there when his son brought Packard ashore, and emergency services pinned him down and took him to hospital.

Mayo, like Robbins, did not recall a similar situation in which a diver ended up in the mouth of a humpback.

Packard was in real danger, Mayo said, not from the whale’s throat, but from the air pressure in his own lungs when the whale emerged to spit him out.

“If you get to atmospheric pressure and hold your breath, you could develop a stroke,” Mayo explained.

“He should have been calm,” Mayo said. “To get out of a situation like that you have to be a great professional.”

“The reason he’s still here is because he’s smart,” Mayo said of Packard. “He’s a smart guy, he’s a tough guy, and he’s a lucky guy.”

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