Cape Cod fisherman OK after whale gulps him down, spits him out – Twin Cities

A Cape Cod fisherman is recovering after miraculously emerging without serious injuries from spending nearly a minute in the maw of a humpback whale who mistook him for a snack.

“I was lobster diving and a humpback whale tried to eat me,” fisherman Michael Packard wrote on Facebook.

This salty tale begins innocuously, with the 56-year-old sea captain Packard on Friday morning looking for lobsters near Provincetown, where he’s from. He dove into the ocean to check a trap — when a passing whale gulped 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 on Friday afternoon.

Michael Packard, on his way out from the hospital just a few hours later, told a local TV reporter he thought that was it for him.

“I realized I’m in a whale’s mouth, and he’s trying to swallow me,” a shaken-sounding Packard told WBZ. “I thought to myself, ‘Hey, this is it. I’m going to die.’”

But happily, his physical recovery seems to be going swimmingly. Medical personnel had suspected he’d broken at least one of his legs, but it appears he escaped even that, his mother said.

“He doesn’t have any broken bones,” she said. “He’s terribly fortunate.”

She said she’d just talked to him on the phone, and they didn’t get too far into what it’s like in a whale’s mouth.

But she did say, “He said he knew it was the end — he absolutely accepted it.”

Humpback don’t actually eat people. Experts say this kind of behavior is essentially unheard of, and likely is just a freak incident — a fluke, if you will. There’s a pretty good chance no one outside of Nineveh-bound biblical figures can match Packard’s story.

Marine mammal expert Peter Corkeron of the New England Aquarium told the Herald that humpback whales are “gulp feeders” who eat by unhinging their mouths and taking big lunges through the water. And when you’re 50 feet long and weigh 30 tons, as humpbacks can, sometimes you don’t really have too much fine control over where you’re headed, he noted.

“They slurp up as much as they can, and then swallow it down,” he said, noting that he’s never heard of a human being scooped up like this. This one was probably looking to snatch up some fish when Packard ended up in just the wrong place at the wrong time.

Corkeron said there’s actually evidence that humpbacks can be “altruistic” toward humans — and the happy ending to this whale tale could be another such case, given that Packard said the whale swam to the surface to spew him out.

“It’s perfectly believable that the whale was trying to help him,” Corkeron said.

Anne Packard noted that Michael been in a nasty plane crash years ago in Costa Rica when he was fishing there, and was able to walk away.

Fisherman Michael Packard. (Courtesy of Michael Packard.)

“He’s blessed, I guess,” she said. “It’s unbelievable.”

Michael Packard has been fishing in the P-town area from his boat, the J&J, for years. No, it’s not named after the coronavirus vaccine maker — it’s after his two sons, of whom neither is named Jonah. Packard previously has worked the waters of Central America and California before circling back to the Cape.

Anne Packard said the last time she talked to him before the whale-consumption incident she’d told him he needs to write a book about all of his weird experiences. But Michael laughed it off; he’s not one for this kind of attention, she said.

And indeed, he told the Herald in a text message Friday afternoon that he was simply too swamped with attention, and didn’t want to talk publicly anymore about the experience.

But the whale chomp might have made it unavoidable.

“He doesn’t want to make a big deal out of it, but it’s becoming a big deal,” Anne Packard said. “I mean, how many people have been in the mouth of a whale?”

Twin Cities