A veteran lobster diver didn't get the big catch he wanted last Friday, but he did return to shore with a Bible-like story that is drawing worldwide attention.
Michael Packard, a 56-year-old commercial lobster diver, was swallowed by a humpback whale off Cape Cod, Mass. – and lived to tell about it.
Packard's job is to pluck lobsters off the ocean floor while a partner, on the boat's surface, monitors his safety, according to the Cape Cod Times.
On Friday, though, Packard became the hunted. He estimates he was 45 feet below the surface when the whale swallowed him.
"All of a sudden, I just felt this huge bump, and everything went dark," he told CBS Boston. "And I could sense that I was moving. And I was like ... did I just get bit by a shark? And then I felt around, and I realized there was no teeth. And I felt really no great pain. And then I realized ... I'm in a whale's mouth, and he's trying to swallow me. And I thought to myself, Okay, this is it. ... I'm going to die."
Packard told the Cape Cod Times he thought about his family, including his boys, ages 12 and 15.
"I was completely inside," Packard said.
Loaded with heavy scuba gear and still able to breathe, Package tried fighting the whale, which began "throwing his head side to side." Packard said he eventually "saw light."
"All of a sudden, he went up to the surface, and just erupted and started shaking his head, and I just got thrown in the air and landed in the water," Packard said. "And I just floated. And I was just, I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe I got out of that. I'm here to tell it. I thought my legs were broken, but I'm [only] all bruised up. I made it."
Packard said he was at the mercy of the whale's desires.
"It was happening so fast. My only thought was, how to get out of that mouth? And I realized there was no overcoming a beast of that size. He was going to do with me what he wanted to do. It was either he spit me out, or he swallowed me. ... I was actually in his mouth probably a good 30 seconds. But I still had my regulator on my mouth. I was still breathing."
Packard, who was rescued by his crewman, Josiah Mayo, was taken to the Cape Cod Hospital.
Jooke Robbins, director of Humpback Whale Studies at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, Mass., told the Cape Cod Times the humpback whale likely swallowed Packard by accident.
The story was discussed frequently on social media within the Christian community.
"I'm wondering if the former president of a Baptist university who told me that no one still believes Jonah was swallowed by a whale has seen this?" tweeted Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board.
I’m wondering if the former president of a Baptist university who told me that no one still believes Jonah was swallowed by a whale has seen this? 😂— Paul Chitwood (@DrPaulChitwood) June 12, 2021
Massachusetts lobster diver survives being swallowed by whale: 'I was completely inside' https://t.co/mG8FELBTiT
"Jonah: 'See...I told you guys it is possible,'" tweeted Matt Capps, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, N.C.
Photo courtesy: Mike Doherty/Unsplash
Video courtesy: ©CBS Boston
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.