Whale Gets Too Much Credit: It Did NOT Swallow a Lobster Diver

It simply ‘mouthed’ him 20 seconds… then spit him out

Doug Harris


Michael Packard after a Jonah-like adventure

Headlines around the world declared, a few days ago, that a humpback whale “swallowed” a man off Cape Cod in Massachusetts. That did not happen.

In truth, the whale, finding itself with a strange creature in its mouth — whales aren’t interested in eating people — spit the man out.

USA Today: Swallowed by the whale: Lobster diver caught by humpback whale off Massachusetts beach

But the story as told in assorted headlines was much more likely to attract attention — clicks — than the truth. Sadly, online news sources too often do that — stretch or distort stories to catch readers’ attention.

Britain’s Mirror newspaper does so on a pretty regular basis when it reports the weather. A typical recent headline: “UK weather: Heatwave could hit 30C after hottest day of the year as scorcher continues”. The actual story said the temperature “might” make it up to 29° C — a toasty 84° F.

MSN News: Provincetown Man Gets Swallowed Whole By A Humpback Whale, Miraculously Survives

The article also noted, more precisely, that, “The hottest temperature recorded on Saturday was 24.8C at Kew Gardens in London, with 24.6C at Heathrow and St James’s Park [In London] as well. That 24.6C temperature translates as a shade over 76° F — hardly the making of a ‘heat wave’.

Similarly, British papers, particularly the tabloids, tend to categorize virtually any winter storm of any significance — emphasis on any — as a ‘blizzard’. Whether or not the storm meets, say, the Cambridge Dictionary’s definition of a ‘blizzard’: “A severe snow storm with strong winds”.

NY Post: Lobster diver says he was swallowed by humpback whale near Cape Cod

It’s becoming more and more common for politicians on both sides of the Atlantic to, um, exaggerate this or that to make their points. Unfortunately, the results often are counterproductive — just as it is, or should be, for web sites saying a whale swallowed a man when it only kind of ‘mouthed’ him a bit: The exaggerations usually are, or quickly become, obvious.

Deseret News: Yes, a humpback whale swallowed a Cape Cod fisherman

Charles “Stormy” Mayo, a senior scientist and whale expert at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, told USA Today that “humpbacks are not aggressive animals,” and he said he feels this was likely an accidental encounter while the whale was feeding on fish, likely sand lance.

However it happened, Michael Packard is a licensed commercial lobster diver, is simply glad he survived the encounter.



Doug Harris

50+ years a writer, 80+ unique bylines. Two blogs have reached 60+ countries.