By: Patrick Szkutak, Joe Harrington, Bailey P. Carmody, and an anonymous student
Answer: It’s complicated but he probably wasn’t actually “swallowed.”
Based on the evidence gathered, Michael Packard could have been in the whale’s mouth but not swallowed. When a whale is feeding, they suck in a ton of water which sucks in the fish, Michael could have been surrounded by fish and had been sucked in. But when the whale realized Michael was not something the whale wanted, he split him back out through his mouth. It is possible he was in a whale’s mouth but was not swallowed entirely by the whale.
On June 11th, 2021, a lobster diver from Cape Cod, Michael Packard, allegedly was swallowed by a humpback whale. According to NBC Boston, Packard told a reporter that “All of a sudden I felt like I got hit by a freight train and everything went black.” It was said that he was in the mouth of the whale for roughly 45 seconds. His crewmate, Josiah Mayo, backed up Packard’s story saying, “I saw Michael kind of pop up within the mess and the whale disappeared.” As unbelievable and almost impossible for this to have happened, Michael came out of this supposed incident with at least two broken legs.
What makes this story even more crazy and suspicious is that there was another life-threatening accident in Michael Packard’s life according to the New York Post, it was said that Packard was in a plane crash back in 2001 where he broke several bones and had facial injuries. He and four other members crashed into a jungle in Costa Rica, where he was stranded in the desert for two days and was hours away from death.
According to local sources Michael Packard was swallowed by a whale on June 11th a little before 8am. The first media to get ahold of this story was the Cape Cod Times releasing an article published on June 11th, late afternoon. This was followed by more news sources like the NY Times, CNN, Washington Post, NPR and many other news outlets writing articles in the following days. Michael even appeared on the Jimmy Kimmel show and told his story there.
In the Cape Cod article there’s a section asking how do we know it’s true? Adding the suspicion upon the claim themselves. A few articles went the same route and included their own ways of saying “how do we know this really happened.” Another origin of suspicion on Michael’s claim was that all these media sources included the keyword “Swallowed” in their title. This effectively snowballs into people coming out and talking about can a man actually get swallowed by a whale, building up more question to the original claim.
Issues and Analysis
In an article from WhaleFacts titled “Can a Whale Swallow a Human?” Dr. Jooke Robinson, a director of humpback research at the Center of Costal Studies in Provincetown, Massachusetts, said that if a humpback whale is lunge feeding and if Packard was in the way of that path, then it is possible the whale could not detect him in time and put him in their mouth.
According to Wings in the Sea the Humpback Whale a book by Lois King and Howard Elliott Winn, the Humpback whales eat krill as a main part of their diet. In order to get these large amounts of sea water into its mouth the Humpback whale can enlarge its throat. They then use special structures in their mouth called baleen plates in order to filter out their prey. While Humpback whale may have a ginormous mouth its throat is actually only the size of a human fist.
The humpback whale uses a method of hunting called lunge feeding. This method of hunting has the Humpback whale diving underneath the water or to the sides of its prey lunging forward and great speed and using its large throat to swallow all the sea water it can. The only drawback to this method is that the Humpback cannot always see what it is swallowing. Often times all sorts of ocean life is accidentally ends up in the mouth of the Humpback whale. There have been accounts of birds being snatched up while feeding on the same krill as the whales as well as a sea lion! These occasions may be rare, but they do happen. While this makes it impossible for Michael Packard to have been swallowed by a whale it doesn’t mean he couldn’t have ended up in its mouth.