- Cape Cod fisherman Michael Packard said Friday he was swallowed by a humpback whale while diving for lobsters.
- A doctor at the hospital that treated Packard told The New York Post he should have been more injured.
- Another fisherman told The Post that people are finding Packard’s story “hard to believe.”
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Cape Cod fisherman Michael Packard made headlines around the world last week when he told reporters a harrowing story about being swallowed whole by a humpback whale while diving for lobsters off Provincetown, Massachusetts on Friday. But not all are buying his story.
The 57-year-old told the Cape Cod Times that he felt a “huge shove” and then everything went “completely black” and he realized he was inside the mouth of the whale.
“Then all of a sudden [the whale] went up to the surface and just erupted and started shaking his head. I just got thrown in the air and landed in the water,” Packard told CBS Boston. “I was free and I just floated there. I couldn’t believe… I’m here to tell it.”
The captain of Packard’s boat told the outlet that he witnessed the whale spitting Packard out and was able to help pull him back onto the boat.
However, a doctor and a fellow fisherman questioned Packard’s story when contacted by The New York Post, in an article published Saturday. Neither were named in the report.
-NBC10 Boston (@NBC10Boston) June 11, 2021
The doctor who spoke to The Post works at the hospital where Packard was treated after the alleged whale encounter but was not part of the team who tended to Packard’s minimal wounds.
The doctor said if Packard really had been swallowed by the whale and hurled toward the surface, he would have had more injuries – such as hearing loss due to the rapid change in pressure.
“He reportedly ascended from a 13.72m depth in 20 to 40 seconds and didn’t have any evidence of barotrauma?” the emergency room doctor said.
Meanwhile, a Massachusetts lobsterman told The Post that people in the fishing industry are finding Packard’s story “hard to believe.”
“It’s a first-ever that this would happen,” the anonymous lobsterman, who has fished in the area for 44 years, told The Post. “For a guy to be in the middle of that giant school of fish corralled by a whale doesn’t make sense.”
Insider sought comment Packard but was unable to make contact.
While rare, there have been incidents of humpback whales swallowing humans.
In 2019 wildlife photographer Rainer Schimpf was scooped up by a whale while capturing images off the coast of Port Elizabeth in South Africa, according to NBC Connecticut. Like Packard, he said the whale swam to the surface and spit him out.
While imposing in their size, humpback whales are not aggressive to humans and hunt schools of small fish.
Peter Corkeron, who leads whale research at the New England Aquarium, told NBC Connecticut that it’s possible for a whale to accidentally swallow something it doesn’t typically hunt.
“You know, the water off the Cape is pretty murky,” said Corkeron. “And you know, when whales are doing these feeds, they’re moving really fast. And this is just an accident and I imagine the whale had this ‘Oh my goodness’ moment and probably got rid of him as quickly as it could.”
However, he said humans being swallowed by whales is something that “just never happens.”
“That’s really, really incredibly unusual. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever heard of it.”