56-year-old lobster hunter, Michael Packard, has been wrangling wild crustaceans for 40 years. This might surprise you, but to catch those juicy oversized crawdads, he has to dive deep underwater and grab them by their claws at the sandy bottom. It’s not a fancy job, but it pays the bills. It’s a pretty safe job, too, until something goes horribly wrong.
On the morning of June 11, 2021, Michael and his partner Josiah Mayo went out into the sea to catch some lobsters. He gracefully plopped into the water, and when he reached the bottom, the schools of fish swarmed our diver. One second later, Michael felt a jolt, and everything went dark.
He couldn’t move, and something was squeezing his entire body as if it were a human-sized grape ready to be popped. The realization was instantaneous — the man was swallowed whole by something really big. At first, Michael thought he was inside a shark, but it must have been something else since he was still alive and not shredded to pieces. Something bigger and without razor-sharp teeth. Then it occurred to him — he had been swallowed by a whale.
What do you do when a 30-ton humpback whale decides to slurp you up? Your whole life starts flashing before your eyes, and your mind keeps looping the same thought “Is this the way I die?” Pretty morbid, but that’s exactly what happened to Michael. The adrenaline heightened all his senses and turned seconds into hours. After a few of those hour-long seconds, the man started wiggling, punching, and kicking the sea beast, and at one point, the animal began to shake its head and spat the seaman out into the water.
Josiah’s colleague, Mayo, was looking at the commotion from the boat on the surface. He watched the animal spit the man out, helped him get out of the water into the boat, and called rescuers and medics via radio. After Michael was rescued, he estimated that he stayed in the whale’s mouth for around 30 seconds. It must have been the worst 30 seconds of his entire life.
Thankfully, Packard sustained no serious injuries, aside from a dislocated knee and some bruises. Experts say that such situations are extremely rare and that humpback whales usually do not swallow people. These mammals open their mouths wide to absorb as much food as possible and if some diver gets sucked in with the fish, well, it’s not really the whale’s fault.
Michael also said that it was not the first time he was lucky to survive a dangerous encounter. Ten years ago, he flew over the jungle while traveling through Costa Rica when his plane crashed. The first and second pilots and most of the passengers died in the crash. However, five passengers, including Packard, were able to survive. They spent two nights in the jungle until rescuers found them. So, you could say that the humpback incident was not a big deal for our hero.
Just another Friday at Cape Cod.