It is – quite literally – a whale of a story.
Michael Packard was diving for lobster off the Cape Cod coast in Massachusetts when he was hit by what felt like a 100-tonne lorry.
Being 45ft beneath the waves, the juggernaut object was not a motor vehicle at all however – but one of the largest living creatures known on the face of the planet.
Humpback whales are among the biggest beasts on earth alongside their cousins the blue whale and have been known to eat up to 1.4 metric tons of small fish or krill.
So when Michael was gulped by of the friendly giants in June of last year, his adult male body would have barely touched the sides of its mouth.
An experienced commercial diver, Michael thought he had been swallowed by a huge shark when he suddenly found himself inside a pitch black, fleshy cavern, as the predators are regularly spotted around the New England coast.
But realising the creature was toothless, Michael soon grasped that he was in fact inside something potentially much bigger, yet far more likely to be harmless.
He later recounted to the Cape Cod Times how he suddenly thought, “oh my God, I’m in the mouth of a whale”. What followed was an intense struggle as Michael lost his breathing apparatus and he was forced to feel around in the darkness.
Thinking he was going to die, Michael said his thoughts flew to his young children and his family, when suddenly the darkness turned to light as the humpback open its jaw and he was tossed back out onto the ocean surface.
Scientists have since claimed that it would be almost physically impossible for a humpback to swallow humans whole.
The creatures feed by lunging themselves through the water into shoals of fish, and while humans certainly do not factor on their list of prey, it’s not impossible that one may not detect someone in time.
According to the UK non-profit group Whale and Dolphin Conservation, a humpback’s throat is only 15 inches in diameter – barely wide enough for humans to slip down.
In fact, incidents of humans being swallowed by whales have only been recorded once before in history.
In the 1890s, James Bartley was swallowed by a sperm whale while on a whaling expedition near the Falkland Islands. Incredibly, he survived.
As for Michael Packard, it would be safe to say the experienced seaman is giving the creatures a wide berth since his brush with becoming whale food last year.