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A lobster diver says he was caught in the mouth of a humpback whale off Cape Cod

The Boston Globe logo The Boston Globe 6/11/2021 Amanda Kaufman
a small boat in a body of water: Michael Packard was diving for lobsters off of Provincetown when he said he found himself in a whale's mouth. © Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff Michael Packard was diving for lobsters off of Provincetown when he said he found himself in a whale's mouth.

A lobster diver says he spent about 30 to 40 seconds in the mouth of a humpback whale on Friday morning as he was diving off of Cape Cod.

Michael Packard told WBZ he was diving for lobsters off of Provincetown when he said he felt a “huge bump” and “everything went dark” before he found himself in the whale’s mouth. He wrote in a Facebook post that he was rescued by first responders after the whale released him, and he was not seriously injured.

“He’s just coming home from the hospital now,” Packard’s mother, Anne Packard, said in a phone interview on Friday afternoon. “He’s bruised up a bit, but he’s alright.”

Packard described the terrifying encounter in an interview with WBZ, in which he said he initially thought he had been bit by a shark but managed to escape when the whale came back to the surface.

“I got down to about 45 feet of water and all of a sudden I just felt this huge bump and everything went dark,” he said. “I could sense that I was moving and I was like, ‘Oh my God did I just get bit by a shark?’ and then I felt around and I realized there was no teeth, and I had felt really no great pain and then I realized, ‘Oh my God, I’m in a whale’s mouth. I’m in a whale’s mouth, and he’s trying to swallow me.’”

He told WBZ that he thought he was going to die, and he was thinking about his wife and kids. Packard was diving off of his boat, called “J ‘an J,” which is named for his two sons, Jacob and Josiah, according to his mother.


Video: Mass. lobster diver swallowed by humpback whale off Cape Cod coast (WCVB Boston)

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“I thought to myself ‘OK, this is it … I’m gonna die,’” he said. “There’s no getting out of there.”

But the whale went up to the surface and threw him into the air, he told the station.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Packard said. “I couldn’t believe I got out of that and I’m here to tell it.”

Packard told WBZ a member of the crew on the J ‘an J was tracking his bubbles as he dove, and he, along with the crew of another boat, helped pull him out of the water.

In his Facebook post to the Provincetown Community Space on Friday afternoon, Packard said a humpback whale tried to eat him, adding he was “was very bruised up” but had no broken bones and thanking Provincetown officials for their help.

The Center for Coastal Studies, an organization based in Provincetown that researches marine mammals and ecosystems, said in a statement that Michael’s encounter with the whale was a “rare accident.”

Humpback whales go to Cape Cod to feed, the statement said, and they “lunge quickly, open their mouths wide and use baleen plates in the mouth to ‘filter’ the water out before the fish are swallowed.”

“If something lies directly in the path of a lunge feeding humpback whale, the whale might not always be able to detect it or avoid it in time,” Jooke Robbins, the center’s director, said in the statement.

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