Lobster diver survives after being caught ‘in a whale’s mouth’

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The humpback whale and the lobster diver Michael Packard.

A 56-year-old commercial lobster diver has survived after being caught in the mouth of a humpback whale off the coast of Cape Cod before he was spat out.

Lobster diver Michael Packard said he was about 45 feet (14 metres) deep in the waters off Provincetown when “all of a sudden I felt this huge bump, and everything went dark”.

He thought he had been attacked by a shark, common in area waters. “But then I realised I could not feel any teeth and he was not in any pain.”

“Then I realised I’m in a whale’s mouth … and he’s trying to swallow me,” said Packard.

“And I thought to myself this is it, I’m gonna die.”

Packard estimates he was in the whale’s mouth for about 30 seconds on Friday. However, he continued to breathe because he still had his breathing apparatus in. Then the whale surfaced, shook its head, and spat him out.

He was rescued by his crewmate in the surface boat.

“I saw light, and he started throwing his head side-to-side and the next thing I knew I was outside [in the water],” Packard told the Cape Cod Times.

‘No reason to doubt the incident’

Jooke Robbins, director of humpback whale studies at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, Massachusetts, said she had no reason to doubt the account.

Robbins said she had never heard of an “accident” of this type. But “it may be that he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” she said.

“I didn’t think it was a hoax because I knew the people involved … So I have every reason to believe that what they say is true,” she told the AFP news agency.

“When whales fish … they rush forward, open their mouth and engulf the fish and the water very quickly,” she said. And they have large mouths, but throats so narrow they would not be able to swallow a human, she added.

“It is important for people to be quite aware … And when they see a whale, keep a good distance. It’s really important to give whales their space,” Robbins added.

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