Survival Story of a Diver Swallowed by Humpback Whale
56-year-old commercial lobster diver blacked out inside the mammal's mouth for 40 seconds
Encountering a whale while swimming or diving in the ocean is the worst nightmare of any ocean explorer. But Michael Packard, a 56-year-old commercial lobster diver, came face to face with this oddity when he was swallowed by a humpback whale. In June 2021, off the coast of Provincetown, Massachusetts, Packard was diving into the seabed for lobsters. He was suddenly hit by a huge sea creature and realized that it had squeezed him in its mouth.
Humpbacks are basically baleen whales. So, they lack teeth and instead have a fine comb of keratin (a protein that’s found in human nails and hair) that they use for sieving water out of their mouths. They do so while keeping the tiny krill prey within the mouth. Although they don’t consume larger prey, humpback whales accidentally grab bigger animals and even humans.
Explaining what exactly happened to him, Packard said he dived into the water for the third time when he felt that he was descending into the sea. He just got slammed and felt as if a freight train had hit him and everything turned black. He could sense he was moving and also feel the whale’s muscles squeezing him in its mouth. He thought that he was going to die and started thinking of his 12 and 15-year-old sons.
But as soon as the whale felt that it has swallowed more than it could digest, it started to spit Packard out. The whale slowly moved to the surface and started shaking its head. Packard flew out of its mouth and floated on the sea surface for some time. He was inside the mouth of the enormous whale for around 40 seconds!
According to Nicola Hodgins of Whale and Dolphin Conservation, a U.K. nonprofit, a humpback can easily fit a human within its 10-feet big mouth. But it cannot swallow a human, as a whale’s throat is just the size of a human fist.
Once he was on the surface, he kept breathing and was later picked by Josiah Mayo, a crewman who was called to the shore by a radio. Mayo took Packard to the pier where the Provincetown Fire Department ambulance took him to a nearby hospital.
After facing this near-death experience, his perspective toward life has changed dramatically. Now he sees life as a gift. He returned to his underwater job just after three weeks of recovery. Sometimes the incident crosses his mind, but he tries not to think about it. His survival story is truly chilling.