Michael Packard was diving for lobsters off Cape Cod one cool Friday morning when he felt a bump on his back. Packard, who has been working as a diver out of Provincetown for nearly 40 years, thought that it might’ve been a great white shark. He panicked; three people had been attacked by the animal in the last year, with one fatal incident.

Packard told the local news station that he “felt this huge bump and everything went dark.” He soon found, however, that the “shark” had, not teeth, but fibrous baleen.

After colliding with the behemoth, the lobster diver told reporters, “And then I felt around and I realized there was no teeth,” he said. “And then I realized, ‘Oh my God I’m in a whale’s mouth. . . and he’s trying to swallow me.'”

Packard was stuck in the mouth of a humpback whale. He continued breathing through his oxygen tank, but the fear and uncertainty at what to do next made his mind race. “I realized there was no overcoming a beast of that size,” Packard said. “He was going to do with me what he wanted to do. He was going to spit me out or swallow me.”

As the seconds ticked by, Packard started thinking more clearly about the situation, recalling, “Here I am, I’m breathing air. Am I going to be breathing air in this whale’s mouth until it runs out? Crazy stuff.”

The ordeal didn’t last long, though. Humpback whales are unable to swallow anything larger than a melon, so something as large as a human poses a serious choking hazard.

Packard recalled the ordeal. “All of a sudden he went up to the surface and just erupted and started shaking his head,” he said. “I just got thrown in the air and landed in the water. I was free and I just floated there. I couldn’t believe … I’m here to tell it.”

Ship captain Joe Francis described what it was like seeing his friend reach the surface. “I saw Mike come flying out of the water feet first with his flippers on and land back in the water,” he said. “I jumped aboard the boat. We got him up, got his tank off. Got him on the deck and calmed him down and he goes, ‘Joe, I was in the mouth of a whale.’ He goes ‘I can’t believe it, I was in the mouth of a whale, Joe!'”

Hoare said that the whale was probably just as surprised as Packard, as humpbacks have poor forward eyesight. “Mike would have been down there collecting lobsters, and the whale, trying to swallow sand eels, would have suddenly found he had a diver in his mouth while he or she was dragging in a huge volume of water,” he continued. “The last thing a whale wants in its mouth is something so big it would choke it.”

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