Michael had gone for a dive once before earlier in the day, but the water was calm enough to go for a second. He could see almost 20 feet deep into the water and was looking forward to feeling the sand at the bottom.
He noticed that his surroundings had suddenly grown dark, and he froze. He felt the urge to move away quickly but was bumped roughly. That’s when his vision went dark.
Michael Packard was an expert diver and had been working the waters off Provincetown, the northern tip of the Cape Cod peninsula, for a long time. He loved it and usually fished around Herring Cove Beach with his vessel, the “Ja n’ J.”
As a lobster diver, Michael was accustomed to hanging out around the sandy sea bed. It was a dangerous profession, even at the best of times, and Michael found this out the hard way.
Lobster diving was growing in popularity. An estimated 30,000 people a year recreationally fish these expensive crustaceans. The dangers of lobster diving were inherent.
Whether you chose to do it by free diving, with scuba gear, or nets, things like entanglement and being dragged out to sea by the current were ever-present dangers. However, as Michael Packard learned, some risks were unavoidable.
Micheal, unlike recreational lobster divers, did it as a living. The activity is strictly regulated now to protect both the divers and the environment. In all his time doing it, he knew about and took precautions against all common risks and dangers.
Michael knew that Cape Cod was well known for encounters with dangerous sea creatures, too, but he had gravely underestimated this particular danger.
Michael deeply respected the ocean and its creatures as if they were his livelihood. He knew that many types of sharks lived and hunted around the same waters where he dove.
The most notorious sharks around these parts were white sharks. They had been responsible for the majority of attacks in Cape Cod since 2012. However, they weren’t the only dangerous creatures there.
Cape Cod was infested with white sharks. It was actually known for having one of the highest concentrations of these types of sharks anywhere in the world.
Sharks, in general, are often misunderstood and nowhere close to being as aggressive as movies portray. However, the proximity of this number of sharks and humans does increase the risk of attacks.
White sharks, although being the most common shark in Cape Cod, were far from the only species that lived and hunted there.
Other types of sharks known to frequent Cape Cod waters were tiger sharks and even great white sharks. Additionally, there was also another giant creature that roamed around here.
Stingrays are dangerous in general. However, Cape Cod is famous for its unique population of these creatures. The type that lived here was aptly known as Giant Cape Cod Stingrays.
Known for its immense size, this specie of stingray was known to come as close as a few feet from shorelines and was as happy to swim around in shallow waters as it was in the open ocean. However, Michael Packard encountered something altogether different.
The largest mammals on Earth, these remarkable giants of the ocean, were not usually a big concern to lobster divers at Cape Cod.
They were known to be gentle and were rarely ever dangerous, but as Michael Packard’s experience proved, there were exceptions. It started as a routine dive for him but soon turned into the most perilous encounter of his life.
Michael Packard was no stranger to dangerous situations. Remarkably, in 2011, Michael survived a plane crash that took the lives of 3 other people, including the pilots.
Despite being seriously injured, after a story like that, Michael never guessed that he would end up in another astonishing situation.
In June 2021, Michael, together with his sister and boat crew, headed out for a routine dive. Everything was going normally. Michael had his regular scuba gear and was heading towards the sandy bottom, where the best lobsters were usually found.
It was his second dive that morning, and conditions were excellent; the water was warmer than usual. On his way down, Michael passed schools of sand lancers. Suddenly, he felt a strong bump before being enveloped by a giant shadow that made everything go dark.
Before Michael could make sense of what had happened, he felt himself being forcefully ejected and ended up back on the surface. No one could fully comprehend what they had just witnessed.
After being rescued and brought back to the boat, everyone else was as stunned as Michael about what had occurred. Unbelievably, Michael had been swallowed and thankfully spat out by a massive humpback whale.
Whales weren’t known to be aggressive despite their colossal size. When the story broke, experts that weighed in on Michael’s hairy experience agreed that it was likely an accidental event.
Whales fed by sucking in vast amounts of microscopic plankton or small fish. In this case, the whale was most likely trying to feed on the school of sand lances nearby when Michael was inadvertently caught in the feeding vacuum its mouth created.
Luckily for Michael, the whale in question wasn’t a toothed one, and he was able to escape without serious injury. The oesophageal opening of a whale isn’t large enough to swallow a human.
Michael was likely trapped inside its mouth for close to a moment before the irritation caused by his squirming torso caused the whale to spit him out again.
Unsurprisingly, Michael’s shocking encounter with the whale led many people to draw comparisons with a bible story. In the famous story, the biblical character Jonah was also said to have been swallowed by a whale.
Aside from “soft tissue damage,” Michael suffered no broken bones or other severe injuries. Whether his luck was divine or not, his plane crash marked the second time that Michael Packard had been involved in an extraordinary accident and lived to tell the tale.
Michael’s family was worried sick about him. Friends, family, and other concerned citizens wanted to find out if he was okay after his terrible ordeal. Many beachgoers were worried about their own safety.
Michael did not take any interviews for a few days after his accident. He needed time to rest so that his mind and body could heal. He knew that there would be a myriad of reporters waiting to question him when he was discharged, and he was not looking forward to it.
Michael’s family accompanied him through his discharge process. They ensured that no reporters were waiting to pounce on him. He still needed time to reflect and wanted to be left alone.
Michael’s wife made sure he was comfortable at home and gave him his favorite homemade meal. Both his sons were standing at the door waiting to welcome him home. He sat quietly at the dining table, staring out the window as if it were the deep blue sea.
The first few nights back home were difficult for Michael. Every time he closed his eyes, he kept seeing the humpback whale that swallowed him. It was a traumatic experience, and he was left in a state of thinking about the purpose of his life.
Michael loved the ocean. It was a part of him. Now he had a painful reminder every time he thought about his work. He loved his job but was it really worth it anymore? He had a lot to think about.
Michael was well-known in his community as a high-end fisherman. His father was also in the trade, which made his work reputable. News about his accident traveled fast, and there were reporters coming to the house every day, but he still wasn’t taking any interviews.
He was dealing with many emotions because it wasn’t the first time that he had been in such a severe accident. In fact, he had been in worse accidents and had several strange, risky encounters in his work and trade. It was taking a toll on him and his family now. He had to make a choice.
Michael’s wife supported him through his recovery process until he was ready to face the world again. One day, after breakfast, Micahel said, “You know, if I have survived the worst, then I only have the best to look forward to.” He smiled at his wife. It was like music to her ears. She had been patiently waiting for her cheerful husband to come back again.
Michael hugged his wife and sat her down. He was now ready to talk and face the world. She was glad that he was back to his brave self and said that she would assist him in the interviews.
Ever since the people of Cape Cod heard about a man being swallowed by a whale, they were eagerly waiting for the first-hand account of the story. Micahel agreed to do his first interview with a local news channel.
The reporter was humbled to be in Michael’s presence and thanked him for being able to share his story. He asked the much-awaited question that everyone was waiting to hear ‘What was it like inside the whale’s mouth?’
Michael took a deep breath and closed his eyes as if he was going underwater. He looked at the reporter and spoke about his ordeal properly for the first time. “It was cold, dark, and wet,” he said. The reporter smiled in understanding and nodded for him to continue speaking.
The camera was focused on Michael. He looked awkwardly at it from time to time as though it could stare into his soul. As if it knew how scared he really was. “I was only inside the whale’s mouth for thirty to forty seconds,” he continued, but it felt like an eternity.
The reporter seemed to pick up on Michael’s conflict within and questioned further. “Michael, you are one of the finest Fishermen in the area, and this is not the first time that you have had an accident in the water. Do you feel that you are getting too old for this job?”
Michael looked at him and sharply said, “Of course not. I’m still fit as a fiddle. The ocean wants something different from me.” “What do you mean by that?” The reporter questioned further, “Are you purposefully going into dangerous waters just for the thrill of it?”
Michael’s wife, who had been listening to the whole interview, was getting uneasy. She interrupted to give Michael a glass of water. He drank it quickly, looking at the TV Crew around him. This wasn’t the time for him to choke up. It was the time for him to show his true character. He knew what he had to say.
“My job isn’t just working for me. It’s a part of who I am. Yes, there are dangers that lurk in the waters, but that is just the risk I have to take, isn’t it? I have been swimming in these waters since I was a boy. I am not afraid, and neither do I challenge the might of the sea. None of you should either,” he said, looking directly at the camera lens.
Michael continued talking to the reporter about the dangers of the fishermen’s job. “Down there are some of the biggest lobster you will see. It takes a real pro to know how to catch them. We can’t send an amateur into this place, ask any fisherman, and they’ll tell you.”
The reporter nodded in agreement. He said that he had a few comments from some of the people who had close whale encounters and wanted to share them with him. He showed him some pictures of fishermen in the east who were regularly visited by a friendly whale who swam upriver. Michael agreed that animals are indeed the greatest part of nature.
Michael continued to tell the reporter that people should be aware when they are around the ocean. He warned people of the dangers that arise from swimming and diving in the open sea.
He said that “the only way we can keep enjoying water activities is by conserving mother nature.” He encourages the youth to prevent water pollution and to try to save our ocean’s animals. The interview went well, and it left Michael feeling that there was another purpose for him besides just fishing.
The interview aired on the local Television station and created quite the talk of the town. Michael brought a lot of attraction to his little hometown of Cape Cod. Everyone wanted to take photos of the beach and see if they could spot the famous ‘human-swallowing Humpback whale.’
Michael couldn’t avoid the publicity. Part of encouraging people to be aware was helping them to do so. He had to walk people around the beach, others wanted a ride on his boat, and everyone wanted pictures with him. It was like a job. News traveled fast around the USA until he got a surprising phone call.
Michael’s wife answered the phone one evening. It was the host of a popular Television Talk Programme calling, and he wanted Micahel on his show. They would pay for his expenses as he would have to fly to the studios in New York.
Michael agreed, and his friends and family accompanied him. They supported him and were in the stands, cheering him on to share his special story.
The Talk show host was funny and friendly and made Michael and his best friend and colleague, Josiah, feel at home. The host asked to hear Josiah’s side of the story as well since he was the one who actually pulled Michael out of the water.
Josiah commented on how scared he was at first because he thought that this was it, the dreaded shark attack. But after a few seconds saw the whale fin and realized that something else was happening. He said that even though Michael was the best in his trade, he was still lucky to be alive.
The TV show was a great success and wasn’t just about making a humorous satire of Michael’s terrifying experience. The host wanted to share Michael’s story because he survived many horrific accidents many times. It was worth noting on a national level.
Michael said he would take extra precautions in his work going further. He had already started doing some warm-up training to get back into lobster diving. One thing is for sure. This Michael is an oceanic die-hard.
Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.