Swallowed by a Whale: True or False?

Recently, reports surfaced that a man was swallowed by a feeding whale. The unusual event made many scratch their heads and wonder, “Could you actually be swallowed by a whale?”


You’ll be relieved to know that no, you can’t actually be swallowed be a whale — but you could end up in the mouth of one.

The esophagus of the colossal cetaceans surprisingly measures only inches wide. They dine on small crustaceans and teensy fish; they won’t intentionally eat a human.

What happened was completely accidental — the whale was likely feeding on juvenile sand lance in the area, and the diver just happened to be in the midst of them. When humpbacks feed, their mouths blow up like a parachute, blocking their forward vision. The unsuspecting whale had no idea there was a human in the mix.

Experts estimate the likelihood of this actually happening is one in a trillion.

Despite the odds, it has happened to a diver filming a sardine run in South Africa. (Yes, that’s the diver in the whale’s mouth below. Don’t worry, he’s fine.)

Diver scooped up by a whale in South Africa. Image: YouTube

It happened to two kayakers off California’s Central Coast.

And it recently happened to commercial lobster diver Michael Packard in Cape Cod. He was decked out in scuba gear as he headed to the sandy ocean bottom to gather lobsters. He noticed schools of sand lances and stripers swim by. Then, darkness.

“All of a sudden, I felt this huge shove and the next thing I knew it was completely black,” Packard told the Cape Cod Times.

“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.”

He estimates that he was inside the mystery mouth for 30 to 40 seconds. Initially, he thought he had been gobbled up by a great white shark; but he couldn’t feel teeth and didn’t think he had been injured. It was at that moment that he realized he had probably been gulped up by a lunge-feeding whale.

“I could sense I was moving, and I could feel the whale squeezing with the muscles in his mouth,” he said. In a miraculous turn of events, he got out. “I saw light, and he started throwing his head side to side, and the next thing I knew I was outside (in the water),” recalled Packard.

A fellow crew member saw the whale surface in a frenzy where Packard was supposed to be. He radioed to shore, grabbed Packard and sped back to the pier to get him to the hospital.

Packard lived to tell the tale — quite possibly the best tale ever — which will fascinate people for years to come.


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