Michael Packard has a story to tell: he survived ingestion by a humpback whale early Friday morning.
At around 8 a.m., the 56-year-old diver jumped from his boat off Provincetown, Massachusetts, to check on one of his traps.
Packard was 45 feet below the ocean’s surface when he suddenly “I felt that huge bump and it all went dark,” he told Boston-based CBS affiliate WBZ.
At first, Packard said, he feared he might be the victim of a shark attack, but after noticing a lack of sharp teeth, he realized it was in the mouth of a whale that he said was trying to swallow it.
“All of a sudden I felt this huge push and the next thing I knew it was completely black,” Packard told the Cape Cod Times. “I was like, ‘There’s no way I’m going to get out of here. I’m done, I’m dead. I was only thinking of my boys, they are 12 and 15 years old.
Packard, who was still breathing through his regulator, said he was having trouble breaking free. This apparently caused the whale to shake its head. Within 30 or 40 seconds, he said, the animal surfaced and ejected Packard from its mouth.
Packard’s shipmate Josiah Mayo says he saw Packard being kicked out of the whale and rescued it out of the water.
“My first thought was I can’t believe I got out of this situation. My second thought was how hurt I was, ”Packard told the Cape Cod Times.
Although Packard was taken to a local hospital, his injuries turned out to be less severe than he initially thought – just a lot of soft tissue damage.
New England Aquarium marine mammal expert Peter Corkeron told the Boston Herald that whales like the one that apparently swallowed Packard don’t actually eat people: they are “sip eaters” who “Aspire as much as they can and then swallow it.”
Corkeron suspects the whale was just trying to catch fish and had no intention of turning Packard into breakfast.
He also said that there is some evidence to suggest that humpback whales may be “altruistic” to humans, which may explain why the creature swam to the surface before spitting out Packard.
“It’s perfectly believable that the whale tried to help him,” Corkeron said.
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