On Friday, a lobster diver made headlines when he explained miraculously surviving being”swallowed” by a humpback whale off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Michael Packard told that the Cape Cod Times he felt a shove, and”the next thing I knew that it was completely black.”
Although a humpback could easily match a human within its huge mouth–that can reach approximately 10 ft –it is scientifically impossible for the whale to swallow a human once indoors, based on Nicola Hodgins of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation, a U.K. nonprofit.
A humpback’s throat is roughly the size of a human predator, and can just stretch to approximately 15 inches in diameter to adapt a much larger meal.
In Packard’s case, she says, he was likely”engulfed instead of swallowed” prior to the whale realized its mistake and promptly spat out him –likely a traumatic experience for both Packard and the whale, that had been just hoping to eat any fish.
“[Packard] was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Hodgins says.
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It’s not the first time that humans have purportedly ended up in a whale’s mouth: In 2020, kayakers were caught in the mouth of a feeding humpback in California, as was a tour operator in South Africa’s Port Elizabeth Harbour in 2019. Most famously, the Bible tells the story of Jonah, who was swallowed by a whale to save him from drowning. Even Pinocchio’s father Geppetto is swallowed by a whale in the classic children’s story.
The idea of whales swallowing humans has long been a part of mythology—so much so that many people believe it to be true. Yet it’s scientifically impossible for all but one whale species—the sperm whale—to swallow something as large as a person.