PROVINCETOWN, Mass. — A Massachusetts diver felt like a modern-day Jonah on Friday morning after he was briefly caught in the mouth of a humpback whale.
Michael Packard, 56, was diving off the coast near Provincetown when he said something hit him, WFXT reported.
What followed was a whale of a tale.
At first, Packard believed he was hit by a Great White shark. But after being bumped, Packard said everything went completely black.
“All I could feel was pressure and movement and this whale just swimming and just shaking his head,” Packard told WFXT. “And then I realized, I said, ‘It’s not a shark.’ The only other thing is ‘I just got eaten by a whale.’
“I’ve been diving for 40 years, so I knew. I didn’t think it was possible but I said, ‘This can’t be anything else, I’m in a whale’s mouth.’”
Packard posted about his experience in a post on the Provincetown Community Space’s Facebook page.
“I was lobster diving and a humpback whale tried to eat me,” Packard wrote in the post. “I was in his closed mouth for about 30 to 40 seconds before he rose to the surface and spit me out.”
Packard said he struggled and the whale decided it preferred a different kind of snack.
“I was completely inside (the whale); it was completely black,” Packard told the Cape Cod 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.”
Josiah Mayo saw the explosion of water when the whale surfaced and ejected Packard. He pulled Packard out of the water, called for help on a radio and headed back to shore, the newspaper reported.
“My first thought was I can’t believe I got out of that situation,” Packard told the Times. “My second thought was for how injured I was.”
Jooke Robbins, director of Humpback Whale Studies at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, said this species is normally not aggressive toward humans.
“Based on what was described this would have to be a mistake and an accident on the part of the humpback,” Robbins told the Times.
Robbins speculated that the whale was a juvenile feeding on a sand lance, the newspaper reported. When the whale opens its mouth to feed, it can block its forward vision, he said.
Charles “Stormy” Mayo, a senior scientist and whale expert at the Center for Coastal Studies, agreed that what happened to Packard was rare.
“People direct dive on them (humpbacks) in the tropics, not here,” Charles Mayo told the Times. “In those places I’m not aware of a single incident of people having problems with them.
“Michael (Packard) is a smart guy and an exceptional diver. For that to happen to him, you can be sure he did everything he was supposed to do.”
Others find Packard’s claim too wild to believe, though so far there is no evidence to suggest that Packard is being untruthful about his experience.
Packard originally believed he had a broken leg, but he told the Times that he suffered a lot of tissue damage.
“But I’m good overall,” Packard told the newspaper.
“Thank God, it wasn’t a white shark. He sees them all the time out there,” Cynthia Packard, Michael Packard’s sister, told the Times. “He must have thought he was done.”
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