You might have caught the story about a lobster diver from Provincetown who was swallowed by a humpback whale off Cape Cod last week – and lived to tell the tale. The idea of swirling around inside the jaws of the ocean’s most legendary creature conjures up all sorts of aquatic childhood fables, from Moby Dick and Disney’s Pinocchio to the Bible’s own Jonah and the whale. This incredible real-life encounter however, offers the rare chance to hear it straight from the
horse’s whale’s mouth. Michael Packard, who is currently recovering at home with his family, calls his near-death experience “so rare that it’s almost non existent”. But since the news of the incident hit the headlines, it’s come to light that being swallowed by a whale isn’t the only news-worthy story the 56 year-old diver has to share. He has also survived a plane crash in the jungle, was nearly lost at sea in a storm as a youth and once helped solve a missing person’s case. In short, Michael Packard is the kind of guy we’d nominate as the person we’d most like to run into at a bar. His 16 year-old son, Jacob, had the enterprising idea to host a Reddit Q&A for his publicity-shy Dad. “I’ll be relaying the questions to him since he isn’t the most internet-savvy person,” Jacob wrote before diving into the internet’s questions (which were in the thousands). So before Hollywood turns his story into a movie, here’s a moment with the real-life Jonah, which in our opinion, ranks up there amongst most epic posts in Reddit’s “Ask Me Anything” forum history.
Was its tongue smooth like a dogs or scratchy like a cats? Did you know immediately that you were in a wales mouth?
I was in a dry suit, couldn’t really tell. Also, the mouth was filled with water. At first, I thought maybe a shark. But due to the lack of teeth and the size of it I soon realized that what I was in was a whale. I could feel the muscles of its mouth convulsing around me, it was a really strange feeling to be sure. Can’t draw a meaningful comparison. It was roomy enough to move my arms around but not much more. My legs were clamped down on, that’s what caused my leg injuries. I have some soft tissue damage, and my leg is pretty messed up. [He currently has a noticeable limp. But otherwise okay].
How long were you trapped? Were you concerned at any point that you might die? Were any thoughts going through your mind?
Trapped for about 30-40 seconds – my entire body was inside the whale. Yes, I was almost convinced I was going to die that day. At first, I was focused on getting my regulator back in my mouth so I could breathe [he still had his oxygen tank]. Then I thought MAYBE I could get out of this. After that, I just was a bit dumbfounded that I was legitimately in a whale. Felt strange that I was going to die because of this. My last thought was my wife and kids. After I got out of the hospital everyone was texting me and welcoming me back in town, glad that I was okay. Really shows how many people care about you.
How did you get out? Were you able to see anything? What bad things could have happened inside which didn’t happen fortunately?
- Eventually the whale managed to dislodge me by moving its head and tounge, I think.
- Nope. Completely dark.
- I could’ve suffocated, or drowned if I didn’t retrieve my regulator in time.
Did you see the whale coming and just couldn’t get out of the way or did it sneak up on you?
Not at all. Came up behind from me, felt it close down, then boom.
Why did it “swallow” you? Was it just looking for krill?
Yes. It likely accidentally ran into me while scouring for krill. I could feel it swimming around, but it spit me out not too far from where my boat was with my mate.
Why do you think the whale didn’t eat you? The wetsuit?
Physically incapable. Whales throats are very small
After the whale dislodged you, did you get to see it swim away? Or was it too hectic.
All I saw was whitewater crashing around me, and the tail of it, disappearing into the water.
What is the reaction when you get to the hospital to get checked out and the doctors ask you what happened?
I said “I got stuck in a whale’s mouth.” All the nurses and doctors at the hospital came to see me and ask me about it. One nurse came in with a notepad, she asked me for lottery numbers!
What is your second craziest diving story? I read in the article that you see a lot of white sharks, have you ever had a close encounter with them or do they generally steer clear?
Don’t encounter them often. A while back, I encountered the corpse of a missing person while diving, that is definitely up there with the crazy stories. (It’s suspected it was a diving accident).
I was reading in the other thread about a plane crash you were involved in. Would you be willing to delve into that experience and how it impacted you, your life, and worldview?
(I don’t usually like to ask my dad about the plane crash very often. What he’s told me when I ask him is that he was just astounded to be alive, if he was rescued even a day later he wouldn’t be here today. He has a large scar on his back. This all happened before I was born, but I’m sure it shaped him into the brave and passionate man he is today.)
Aside from the whale and the plane crash, have you had any other near death experiences?
When I was 15 or so, my fishing boat became stranded off at sea. I swam after it. Visibility was terrible, had no idea where I was. No way back to shore. Barely made it out of there with my life, lucky I was found.
Do you plan on continuing your job or just diving in general? This must of been a traumatic event for you.
I’m getting back in the water as soon as possible. This job is my life, wouldn’t stop for anything.
Do you plan on appearing on any of the talk shows you’ve been invited onto?
Not particularly. (My dad hates publicity, he’s a humble dude) … The original article was a small newspaper, Cape Cod Times. Next thing I knew, news stations were in my driveway.
What actor do you want play you in the future Netflix movie?
(His wife says Sean Penn.)
Did you try to communicate with the whale?
I don’t think it would have been in the mood to converse with me at the time.