PROVINCETOWN, Massachusetts – In what is an extremely rare incident, a commercial lobster diver was seriously injured Friday morning when he was caught in the mouth of a feeding humpback whale near a beach, his sister said.
Michael Packard, 56, is in Cape Cod hospital with at least one broken leg, Cynthia Packard said.
“It was swallowed by the whale, it was in its mouth for about 20 seconds,” Cynthia Packard said in a telephone interview Friday morning.
Packard spoke with crewmember Josiah Mayo, who gave him some details. Packard said the whale exploded on the surface and Mayo believed it could be a great white shark.
“There was all this action on top of the water,” Packard told Mayo. Then the whale released its brother.
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The call came shortly before 8 a.m. ET that a diver suffered serious leg injuries after interacting with a whale. Provincetown Fire Chief Michael Trovato said he did not answer the call but confirmed he had heard the diver was injured by a whale.
What do lobsters do?
Commercial lobster divers are a difficult breed. In Provincetown, Massachusetts, they brave cold water to catch migrating lobsters on a sandy plateau as they emerge from an adjacent deep channel and stop to acclimatize to the slightly warmer water.
A crew member follows the diver’s bubbles below as he drifts with the strong current. It’s a place full of dangers, and commercial lobster divers have seen more than their fair share of close calls and tragedy.
“Thank goodness it wasn’t a white shark. He sees them all the time there, ”Packard said. “He must have thought he was done.
Are humpback whales aggressive?
Charles “Stormy” Mayo, senior scientist and whale expert at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, said this was extremely rare. Humpback whales are not aggressive animals, and he said he thought it was likely an accidental encounter while the whale was feeding on fish, likely sand eel.
“People dive directly at them (humpback whales) in the tropics, not here. In these places, I’m not aware of a single incident of people having issues with them, ”said Stormy Mayo.
Packard’s crew member Josiah Mayo is the son of Stormy Mayo.
“Michael (Packard) is a smart guy and an exceptional diver,” said Stormy Mayo. “For this to happen to him, you can be sure he did everything he was supposed to do.”