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Who is Michael Packard? Cape Cod diver briefly swallowed by humpback whale like Jonah in Bible

The Cape Cod lobster diver found himself trapped inside the whale for 30-40 seconds, before being spit out resulting in minor injuries
UPDATED JUN 12, 2021
A humpback whale breaches in a lagoon on June 04, 2019 in Alameda, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A humpback whale breaches in a lagoon on June 04, 2019 in Alameda, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Michael Packard, a lobster diver from Cape Cod, Massachusetts had a rather unusual experience on June 11. Packard entered the water at around 8 am, for his second dive of the day. Shortly afterward, he was surrounded by blackness and felt a squeezing sensation. Thankfully, he was spat out seconds later, and crewman Josiah Mayo picked Packard up and sped back to land. 

The incident is a very rare one since whales reportedly do not feed on humans.  Over the years, encounters with whales have largely been due to whales washing up on shore, or dying. In February 2019, scientists found a whale calf in the middle of the Amazon forest, sparking great interest and a rush of visitors. A year later, Londoners were treated to an unusual whale sighting in the Thames river, before 'Hessy' was tragically struck by a boat and died. 


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Out at sea, divers and fishermen have usually been at risk of shark attacks, like another incident in Cape Cod. In April 2020, a great white shark attempted to bite a fisherman's boat after the boat got too close to the whale carcass the shark was feeding on. Sharks are extremely common in Cape Cod, leading Packard to believe he was first swallowed by one. He then realized he hadn't suffered any wounds, so it was a whale that had consumed him.

A humpback whale swims in the Ilulissat Icefjord on August 04, 2019 in Ilulissat, Greenland. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Who is Michael Packard?

Packard, a Provincetown native has a Marine Technology and Fisheries degree from the University of Rhode Island. His Facebook account says he graduated in 1986, before being employed as a commercial fisherman. The 56-year-old is married and has two boys - who are 12 and 15. He currently works as a commercial lobster diver, lives in Wellfleet, and owns his own vessel - Ja'n J. This isn't Packard's first brush with death. Over 10 years ago, he survived a plane crash in Costa Rica that killed several others and he was found two days later in the jungle. 

Packard's Facebook page is filled with photos of his two boys and numerous fishing adventures. Packard's incident has quickly made local after he shared his experience with the Provincetown Community Space Facebook group. "I just want to clarify what happened to me today. I was lobster diving and A humpback whale tried to eat me. I was in his closed mouth for about 30 to 40 seconds before he rose to the surface and spit me out.I am very bruised up but have no broken bones," he said.  

Michael Packard, Cape Cod lobster diver (Facebook/Provincetown Community Space)

In an interview with local TV station WFXT, Packard said, "All I could feel was pressure and movement and this whale just swimming and just shaking his head. And then I realized, I said, ‘It’s not a shark.’ The only other thing is ‘I just got eaten by a whale'." Reportedly, he's been diving for 40 years and this was the first time he ever encountered a whale so closely. "I was completely inside; it was completely black," Packard told Cape Cod Times. "I thought to myself, ‘there’s no way I’m getting out of here. I’m done, I’m dead."

Thankfully, that didn't turn out to be the case. Within 30-40 seconds, he said, "I saw light, and he started throwing his head side to side, and the next thing I knew I was outside." Mayo then picked Packard up and sped back to the shore. He was then admitted to Cape Cod Hospital and treated for his injuries. 

His story has also caught the attention of many Christians, for its similarities to the tale of Jonah. One person replied to Packard's Facebook post, "a real life Jonah!". Another said, "this puts you on par with Jonah." On Twitter, one person shared the story and dubbed Packard, "Jonah of Wellfleet." Another user joked, "new jonah just dropped."



Packard reportedly has a dislocated knee and soft tissue damage. But the incident isn't likely to put him off diving, he reportedly said he plans to go back out as soon as possible. 

Interestingly, there have been instances of divers being swallowed by whales elsewhere as well. In 2019 a diver was swimming off the coast of South Africa to photograph sharks when “everything went dark” and he quickly realized a whale had swallowed him whole. South African photographer and dive tour operator Rainer Schimpf, 51, was swallowed by a mammoth Bryde’s whale and later spat out just like the whale did to Packard.