whale tale

Is Mass. Lobster Diver's Whale Story a Fish Tale? Some on Cape Are Skeptical

"Being accidentally swallowed by a feeding whale … that just never happens. That's really incredibly unusual," one expert said, though he said what the lobster diver described is not impossible

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Michael Packard's story of being swallowed briefly by a humpback whale as he was diving for lobster off Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod, Friday went viral quickly.  

The story is riveting: "He was biting down on me, biting down on my legs. I felt lots of pressure and just getting twisted and turned every direction."

It's a Jonah-like story. But is it a whale of a tale? Or a fish story?

Robert Kaplow was visiting Provincetown from New Jersey. "I heard about it yesterday and I remember thinking, could this possibly be true?”

Massachusetts commercial lobster diver Michael Packard thought he was going to die after a humpback whale swallowed him into its mouth in 45 feet of water off Cape Cod. But he survived.

Dr. Peter Corkeron of the New England Aquarium was shocked when he heard.

"My reaction was just ... what!?" he said.

Corkeron is the head of the New England Aquarium's Marine Mammal Conservation Program and said, “Being accidentally swallowed by a feeding whale ... that just never happens. That's really incredibly unusual.'

But he also said the way humpbacks feed -- opening their huge jaws 90 degrees and taking in hundreds of gallons of water and food -- make it possible.

"I imagine the whale had this, like, 'Oh my goodness' moment and probably got rid of him as quickly as it could," Corkeron said.

Which sounds right to some, like Kaplow. 

"Having gone whale watching here in Provincetown, you see the physical enormity of the whale. I mean, they're the size of a bus and you say, okay, I guess it could happen."

Others, like Joanne Keating, still have questions.

"I first believed it but, thinking about it, the fact that he didn't have very many injuries and didn't seem traumatized enough ... so I'm skeptical because of that," she said.

The New York Post published an article over the weekend quoting a doctor at the hospital where Packard was treated saying, without giving their name, that it was hard to believe someone who rose from 45 feet underwater to the surface so quickly wouldn't suffer an injury from the quick change in pressure.

A man lived to tell a whale of a tale after spending at least 30 seconds in the mouth of a humpback. The TEN explores his story, looks at previous whale encounters and explains why it's no surprise the animal spat him out.

Michael Packard did not return a call Monday to see what he has to say about the skeptics. 

He did tell reporters Friday that he was surprised he hadn't suffered any ear damage from the change in pressure as he quickly ascended inside the whale.

Asher Klein contributed to this report.

NBC/The Associated Press
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