More details about the incredible story of a lobster diver who was nearly swallowed by a humpback whale before the mammal spit him out are now available on Reddit.
With his son’s help, 56-year-old Michael Packard recently hopped on an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session and answered all the burning questions about his unique experience.
Packard was diving off the shore of Provincetown, Massachusetts, to check one of his lobster traps on Friday. He was 45 feet below water when the world around him went dark.
“All of a sudden, I felt this huge shove and the next thing I knew it was completely black,” he told local news outlet Cape Cod Times in an early interview.
“At first, I thought maybe a shark. But due to the lack of teeth and the size of it I soon realized that what I was in was a whale,” Packard said.
In the Reddit AMA, Packard said he was completely inside the whale’s mouth. His last thoughts were his wife and kids.
“My head was just spinning, I could feel the whale swimming around and I was just thinking that there was almost no way out of this,” he said.
He estimated he was in the whale’s mouth for 30 to 40 seconds before the whale surfaced, shaking its head with Packard inside. He was wearing his regulator, a device used to control the pressure of breathing gas for diving.
“Eventually the whale managed to dislodge me by moving its head and tongue,” Packard said in the Reddit thread.
Humpback whales can be found in any of the world’s oceans, but Cape Cod, where Packard’s accident took place, is a popular spot for whale watching. The mammals can grow up to 60 feet long, or about the size of a bus, and weigh about 40 tons.
The typically non-aggressive mammals feed on small crustaceans, such as krill, and other small fish, like sardines and anchovies. Humpback whales have a specialized filter feeding system in their mouths called baleen plates, which uses fringe brushes to sort food. They will gulp large amounts of water, then push it through the plates to eat.
Humpback whales have very small throats that are about as wide as a human fist at rest, thereby unable to swallow anything large, according to National Geographic. Packard said on Reddit he didn’t believe the whale could have swallowed him even if it wanted to.
As largely gentle creatures, humpback whales don’t normally go after humans or try to swallow them. The most recent accident involving a whale almost swallowing a human was in 2019, when a South African photographer was inside a whale’s mouth for about 2 seconds before being released. The incident was caught on camera.
One of Packard’s crewmates, Josiah Mayo, witnessed the incident from his boat and identified the whale. “They said they saw a bunch of commotion in the water, then saw the whale’s tail surfacing, and me returning into the water,” Packard said.
After he was rescued, Packard was taken to a nearby hospital, where his bruises were treated. “I could’ve suffocated, or drowned if I didn’t retrieve my regulator in time,” Packard said in the Reddit thread.
This run-in with a humpback whale is not Packard’s only near-death experience.
According to the Cape Cod Times, Packard was a passenger in a small plane that crashed in Costa Rica 10 years ago. The accident killed the pilot, co-pilot and a passenger, leaving Packard with serious injuries to his abdomen and upper body. The remaining five passengers, including Packard, were found two nights later in the jungle.
Lobster diving is known to be quite dangerous, resulting in some accidents of divers being dragged out to sea. But with over 15 years experience in this field, Packard said this experience won’t stop him from resuming work.
“I’m getting back in the water as soon as possible. This job is my life, wouldn’t stop for anything,” he said.