Swallowed by a whale? This man's incredible tale of survival | 60 Minutes Australia
Youtube / 60 Minutes Australia
They would have called him Jonah in a past life…
When lobster diver Michael Packard found himself being swallowed up by a humpback whale he was convinced his time had come. But just as he was having what he assumed to be his final thoughts, the whale decided against it and spat him out.
Packard was able to swim to safety after the incident, which was in June 2021. Since then, he has given a series of interviews about the death-defying episode. “[I was] trapped for about 30-40 seconds. Yes, I was almost convinced I was going to die that day,” he said in a Reddit Ask Me Anything.
“All of a sudden, I felt this huge shove and the next thing I knew it was completely black,” he said in a separate interview with the Cape Cod Times. “I could sense I was moving, and I could feel the whale squeezing with the muscles in his mouth,”
Packard was 56 at the time, and initially thought he was inside a great white shark. However, he couldn’t feel any teeth and he hadn’t suffered any obvious wounds, and it dawned on him that the situation was far more biblical than that.
“I was completely inside; it was completely black,” Packard said. “I thought to myself, ‘there’s no way I’m getting out of here. I’m done, I’m dead.’ All I could think of was my boys — they’re 12 and 15 years old.”
Experts think the incident was likely a freak accident, and that the humpback whales are not aggressive towards humans. (That puts them in a different category to orcas, which have spent the first half of 2023 exacting their revenge on humankind.)
Jooke Robbins, director of Humpback Whale Studies at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, said: “Based on what was described, this would have to be a mistake and an accident on the part of the humpback.”
When a humpback opens its mouth to feed, it billows out like a parachute, blocking the animal’s forward vision, which is why so many become entangled in fishing gear in their mouth and jaws, said Robbins.
It isn’t even Packard’s first brush with death. The diver also managed to survive a plane crash in Costa Rica in 2001 in miraculous circumstances. The crash, which killed three people, saw Packard sustain “severe facial injuries and multiple broken long bones in his arms and legs”, according to a Cape Cod Times dispatch in 2001.
A doctor who treated the survivors told the Associated Press: "They would not have survived another night at that site."
As for the whale escape? Packard didn’t sustain any serious injuries, telling Reddit he was left with “soft tissue damage, nothing serious”. A close shave indeed.
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