Modern-Day Jonah Almost Swallowed by Whale

Oceans Wildlife
Photo: Michael Packard

Last Friday, a humpback whale almost swallowed Michael Packard. The commercial lobster diver was in the whale’s mouth for 30 to 40 seconds before the humpback spat him back out.

Packard, 56, was off Cape Cod, Massachusetts when the incident occurred. The weather was perfect, and Packard jumped into the water in his scuba gear. Suddenly, “I felt this huge bump and everything went dark.”

At first, he thought that a shark had attacked him. But there were no teeth and he wasn’t in pain.

He quickly realized that he was actually inside the whale’s mouth. “This is it, I’m going to die,” he thought.

Luckily, he was able to breathe through his regulator while he was trapped. “Then all of a sudden he went up to the surface and just erupted and started shaking his head,” Packard recalled. “I just got thrown in the air and landed in the water. I was free and I just floated there. I couldn’t believe it.”

Photo: Julie Larsen Maher/Reuters

Once he had been spat out, Packard’s crewmate hauled him back into the boat. He was later treated in a Cape Cod hospital. “I am very bruised up but have no broken bones,” he said.

Humpbacks can’t swallow people

Humpback whales open their mouths wide to swallow as many fish and krill as possible. An average humpback can take in around 20,000 litres in one gulp. Even though they can take in a huge amount of water, humpback whales have very narrow throats. They can’t swallow anything larger than a melon, so Packard would never have ended up in the whale’s belly, unlike the biblical Jonah.

Charles Mayo, a whale expert at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, told journalists that such encounters are incredibly rare.

Pieter Lastman’s 1621 painting of Jonah and the Whale. Photo: Wikipedia

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About the Author

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca is a freelance writer and science teacher based in the UK.

She is a keen traveler and has been lucky enough to backpack her way around Africa, South America, and Asia. With a background in marine biology, she is interested in everything to do with the oceans and aims to dive and open-water swim in as many seas as possible.

Her areas of expertise include open water sports, marine wildlife and adventure travel.

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