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Yes, a humpback whale swallowed a Cape Cod fisherman

Inside the darkness of a humpback whale

A humpback whale dives off the coast of Port Stephens, Australia.
A humpback whale dives off the coast of Port Stephens, Australia, on Monday, June 14, 2021. A Cape Cod fisherman was swallowed by a humpback whale and has survived to tell the tale.
Mark Baker, Associated Press

You’ve probably seen the headlines by now, but it’s a story that bears retelling — a Cape Cod fisherman was swallowed by a humpback whale and has survived to tell the tale.

Humpback whale swallows Cape Cod fisherman

Fisherman Michael Packard was looking for lobsters near Provincetown in Cape Cod. He decided to dive into the ocean to see if his lobster traps had worked.

But, according to The Boston Herald, things took a turn for the worse.

Josiah Mayo was watching the action unfold. He said he saw Packard dive down to check a lobster trap. He then saw a rather large fish makes its way through the water.

“This was a humpback whale,” Mayo recounted to The Washington Post. “It was a relief because it wasn’t a shark, which meant Michael would be all done at that point.”

Seconds later, he saw Packard soar into the air and then flop into the ocean. So Mayo sped over there on his boat to help Packard.

“I was inside it. I was inside its mouth,” Packard told Mayo, according to The Washington Post. “It tried to eat me.”

His mother, Anne Packard, told the Boston Herald: “He was in a whale’s mouth for 30 to 40 seconds, and then he was spit out.”

What was it like inside a whale’s mouth?

Packard said he was convinced he was going to die after he was swallowed.

“I realized I’m in a whale’s mouth, and he’s trying to swallow me,” Packard said, according to the Union Leader. “I thought to myself, ‘Hey, this is it. I’m going to die.’”

Packard told WBTS that getting swallowed “felt (like) this truck hit me and everything just went dark.”

“And I could feel just … hard stuff all around me,” Packard said. “And I just thought, ‘Did I just get eaten by a white shark?’ And then I said, ‘No, I don’t feel any teeth.’ And I said ... ‘I’m in the mouth of a whale. With his mouth shut,’” he said, according to The Washington Post.

“I’m like, ‘This is how you’re gonna go, Michael. This is how you’re going to die. In the mouth of a whale,’ ” he said, according to The Washington Post.

Why did the humpback whale swallow a human?

Jooke Robbins, director of Humpback Whale Studies at the Center for Coastal Studies, told the Cape Cod Times that the incident is likely the whale’s fault.

“Based on what was described, this would have to be a mistake and an accident on the part of the humpback,” Robbins said.

Robbins said the whale was likely a juvenile whale eating a sand lance. Per The Cape Cod Times, “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.”

So what’s happening now?

Packard is still recovering from the incident. He has some bruised legs that will force him to stay off his feet for a bit. But Packard isn’t scared of the ocean. He’s ready for his next trip, according to The Washington Post.

“It looks like being the tough son of a gun he is, he’s ready to be back at it as soon as he can be,” Mayo told The Washington Post. “I think we’ll probably be diving in a week, which is pretty remarkable.”