A Cape Cod fisherman is recovering from miraculously recovering without serious injuries from spending nearly a minute in the clump of a humpback whale who confused him with a snack.
“I was diving for lobster and a humpback whale was trying to eat me,” fisherman Michael Packard wrote on Facebook.
This salty tale begins innocently, with 56-year-old sea captain Packard on Friday morning looking for lobster near Provincetown, where he comes from. He dived into the sea to check a trap – when a passing whale swallowed him down.
“He was in a whale’s mouth for 30 to 40 seconds, and then he was spit out,” his mother, local painter Anne Packard, told the Herald Friday afternoon.
Michael Packard, on his way out of the hospital a few hours later, told a local TV reporter that he thought that was it for him.
“I realized I̵
But luckily, his physical recovery seems to be swimming swimming. Medical staff suspected he had broken at least one of his legs, but it appears he escaped it himself, his mother said.
“He has no broken bones,” she said. “He’s terribly lucky.”
She said she had just talked to him on the phone and they did not get too far into what it is like in a whale’s mouth.
But she said, “He said he knew it was the end – he absolutely accepted it.”
Humpback whales do not actually eat humans. Experts say that this kind of behavior is essentially unheard of, and is probably just a freak incident – a fluke, if you will. There is a pretty good chance that no one outside of Nineveh-bound biblical figures can match Packard’s story.
Marine mammal expert Peter Corkeron from the New England Aquarium told the Herald that humpback whales are “gulp feeders” that eat by loosening their mouths and taking large lungs through the water. And when you are 50 feet tall and weigh 30 tons, as humpback whales can, sometimes you do not have too much fine control over where you are going, he noted.
“They swallow as much as possible, and then swallow it down,” he said, noting that he had never heard of a human being being raised like this. This one was probably looking to catch some fish when Packard ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Corkeron said there is in fact evidence that humpback whales can be “altruistic” to humans – and the happy ending to this whale story could be another such case, as Packard said the whale swam to the surface to spit him out.
“It’s completely credible that the whale was trying to help him,” Corkeron said.
Anne Packard noted that Michael was in an ugly plane crash many years ago in Costa Rica when he was fishing there, and was able to walk away.
“He is blessed, I suppose,” she said. “It’s incredible.”
Michael Packard has been fishing in the P-urban area from his boat, J&J, for years. No, it’s not named after the coronavirus vaccine manufacturer – it’s after his two sons, none of whom are named Jonah. Packard has previously worked in waters of Central America and California before circling back to the Cape.
Anne Packard said that the last time she spoke to him before the whaling incident, she had told him that he should write a book about all his strange experiences. But Michael laughed it off; he is not one for this kind of attention, she said.
And in fact, he told the Herald in a text message Friday afternoon that he was simply inundated with attention and would no longer speak publicly about the experience.
But the whale woman could have made it inevitable.
“He does not want to make a big deal out of it, but it will be a big deal,” said Anne Packard. “I mean, how many people have been in a whale’s mouth?”