NEW YORK - A commercial lobster diver who got caught in the mouth of a humpback whale off the coast of Cape Cod on Friday morning said he thought he was going to die.
Michael Packard, 56, of Wellfleet, told WBZ-TV after he was released from Cape Cod Hospital that he was about 45 feet (14 meters) deep in the waters off Provincetown when "all of a sudden I felt this huge bump, and everything went dark."
Michael Packard, 56, recovers in a Cape Cod hospital after being swallowed by a humpback whale Friday off the coast of Massachusetts. (Packard family)
He thought he had been attacked by a shark, common in area waters, but then realized he could not feel any teeth and he wasn't in any pain.
"Then I realized, oh my God, I'm in a whale's mouth ... and he's trying to swallow me," he said. "And I thought to myself OK, this is it — I'm finally — I'm gonna die." His thoughts went to his wife and children.
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He estimates he was in the whale's mouth for about 30 seconds, but continued to breathe because he still had his breathing apparatus in.
"All I thought about was my boys. My two young boys and my wife and my family," said Packard.
The whale was thrashing around, then surfaced, shook its head, and spit him out. He was rescued by his crewmate in the surface boat.
"The next thing I know, I saw Mike come out feet-first, his flippers flying up in the air and land in, land back in the water," said Joe Francis, a friend on a nearby boat.
His sister, Cynthia Packard, originally told the Cape Cod Times that her brother broke a leg, but he said later that his legs are just bruised.
Charles "Stormy" Mayo, a senior scientist and whale expert at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, told the newspaper that such human-whale encounters are rare.
Humpbacks are not aggressive and Mayo thinks it was an accidental encounter while the whale was feeding on fish, likely sand lance.
"So, the mouth itself can be quite large, but, the possibility of swallowing anything large is not. There's, there's no possibility of that," said Jooke Robbins, whale expert at the Center for Coastal Studies.
With the Associated Press