PROVINCETOWN (CBS) -- A lobster diver says he was nearly swallowed by a whale in a terrifying encounter off Cape Cod Friday morning. Michael Packard has been a lobster diver out of Provincetown for 40 years but has never experienced anything like this.
Packard told WBZ-TV News that after jumping off his boat into the water, he "felt this huge bump and everything went dark." At first he feared he was being attacked by a shark.
"And then I felt around and I realized there was no teeth," he said. "And then I realized, 'Oh my God I'm in a whale's mouth. . . and he's trying to swallow me.'"
Packard said he thought to himself "This is it, I'm gonna die." He thought about his kids and wife and felt there was no getting out of the whale's mouth.
"Then all of a sudden he went up to the surface and just erupted and started shaking his head. I just got thrown in the air and landed in the water," Packard recalled. "I was free and I just floated there. I couldn't believe. . . I'm here to tell it."
"He's damn lucky to be alive," said Captain Joe Francis, who was heading a fishing charter nearby. He got a front row seat to the narrow escape.
"Then I saw Mike come flying out of the water feet first with his flippers on and land back in the water," Francis said. "I jumped aboard the boat. We got him up, got his tank off. Got him on the deck and calmed him down and he goes, 'Joe, I was in the mouth of a whale' he goes 'I can't believe it, I was in the mouth of a whale Joe!'"
Packard feared his legs were broken, but he was able to leave the hospital later in the day and could walk with a limp.
The Provincetown Fire Department confirmed they responded to a call at 8:15 a.m. to an injured lobsterman off Race Point.
The whale tale took social media by storm Friday afternoon. The lobster diver estimates he was in the whale's mouth for about 30 seconds.
WBZ-TV's Tiffany Chan reports
"It was happening so fast," a stunned Packard said. "My only thought was how to get out of that mouth."
Peter Corkeron, a senior scientist at the New England Aquarium, told WBZ-TV that when humpback whales feed, "they do what we call gulp feeding, and they can open their mouths up incredibly widely."
"It's a very unusual accident. . . this is a one in a -- goodness knows what -- trillion chance," he said. "He was just unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Corkeron said whales are generally not interested in bothering humans, but it's a good idea for people in the water to stay 100 yards away from a whale at all times.
"Whales are big and strong, and if something goes wrong when you're around them, it can be very dangerous," he said.
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