Darin's Point of No Return

You ever have “one of those days?”

You know, the kind where you just have to take a second, collect yourself and internally marvel at the set of circumstances that conspired against you to create the most ridiculous and insidious day you could imagine? It doesn’t even have to be any dramatic or life-altering events to add up to a day of mental anguish.

Maybe you forgot to set your coffeemaker before you went to sleep, and you got up to go to work, felt things were going fine and on schedule and... ugh. No life-juice sitting in the pot. You have to make a decision to start it up and wait it out, thus endangering your ability to get to work on time — or you take the loss, run out and decide to hit a drive-through on your way in, saving precious minutes in your efforts to be where you’re supposed to be, when you’re supposed to be.

You choose the latter option, pat yourself on the back for grown-upping and fire up your car, only to notice you have next to nothing left in the gas tank. Forget having enough for your side trip to the drive-through. You don’t even have enough for a straight shot to work. You cuss a little, aim for the closest gas station, deciding you can run in and grab a cup of coffee while the pump is doing its magic in replenishing your vehicle’s fuel. Then you get to the gas station and realize, amidst the frustrations of your difficult start to the morning, you forgot your wallet and phone at home. And now you are facing a disaster, relatively speaking.

Or, maybe you went to work and a whale tried to eat you. That, too, can lead to a bad day, right?

Michael Packard is a commercial lobster diver who was out doing his thing on Friday, June 11, when things got a little weird, according to a story on the NPR website. He said he was diving off the coast of Provincetown, Mass., about 45 feet deep, when he suddenly felt, “This huge bump and everything went dark,” per an interview he had with WBZ-TV.  His first thought, understandably enough, was that he was about to become a meal for a shark.

“Then I felt around, and I realized there was no teeth and I had felt, really, no great pain,” he explained. “And then I realized, ‘Oh my God, I’m in a whale’s mouth. I’m in a whale’s mouth, and he’s trying to swallow me.’”

As one might expect, sitting in a whale’s mouth can lead to some introspection. He said he began thinking about his wife and sons, and mentioned something about lamenting the fact that he didn’t even have the opportunity to read that day’s Coastal Point yet. You know, “the local voice of your community.”

Or, he didn’t say that last part out loud. But he was probably thinking it, right?

But I digress.

Packard later wrote on Facebook that he was in the whale’s mouth between 30 and 40 seconds before the whale rose to the surface and spit him out.

“I just got thrown in the air and landed in the water,” he said. “And I was free, and I just floated there. ... I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe I got out of that.”

Crewman Josiah Mayo told the Cape Cod Times that he saw the humpback whale come to the surface and toss Packard back into the sea. Another man, charter boat captain Joe Francis, told WBZ-TV that he saw the end of this escape as well.

“I saw Mike come flying out of the water, feet first with flippers on, and land back in the water,” said Francis. “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.’”

Iain Kerr, chief executive officer of the nonprofit Ocean Alliance, told NPR that humpback whales are known for “lunge feeding,” where they just open their mouths and “take in 10 SUVs worth of water and fish and then everything else.”

Which, interestingly enough, has long been my own strategy at buffets.

Kerr added that it was basically a “one-in-a-million” shot that the whale would have taken in a human being during that process, and also said that these whales have a small esophagus, so it would have been nearly impossible for Packard to actually go down the whale’s throat. Of course, it was pretty close to impossible that Packard would have found himself playing Jonah in a real-life Biblical recreation, as well, so... make of that what you will.

Kerr said that there was no way the whale even wanted Packard in his mouth, and compared the situation to a biker accidentally inhaling a fly. He added that if you ever found yourself in the water near a humpback whale, well, you should just enjoy the experience, because chances are the whale would never intentionally harm you.

“As humanity looks ever more to the oceans for resources, recreation, agriculture, whatever, I think we’re going to have more and more interactions with these animals,” he explained. “But generally speaking, whales are gentle giants, and I think all they ask from us is a little bit of respect of their time and place.”

And, possibly, some salt and pepper?

Executive Editor

Darin is a native of Washington, D.C, and studied journalism at Temple University. He is a combat-veteran Marine, and has worked as a reporter and editor throughout the country. He is married and has one daughter, who doubles as his harshest critic.