What Happens To Your Body If You're Swallowed By A Whale

Perhaps when you were a child, you read "Pinocchio" and wondered, huh, what happens if a whale swallows a person.

Lobster diver Michael Packard can probably tell you. That's because, as the Cape Cod Times reported, a humpback whale swallowed Packard whole while he looked for lobsters in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Packard said he'd been diving when he felt something nudge him. The next thing he knew, everything was completely dark. He knew he wasn't inside a great white shark because there were no apparent wounds. Packard started to struggle, and suddenly he saw light. The whale had surfaced, started moving its head from side to side, and then he was back in the water.

Packard claims he spent about 30 to 40 seconds inside the whale before it surfaced and spat him back out. He's now in a hospital recovering from his injuries. NBC 10 Boston said Packard dislocated his knee and suffered soft tissue damage to his legs.

Whale experts said the murky waters of Cape Cod possibly made it hard for a fast-moving humpback whale to avoid anything it's not supposed to eat. So it may have accidentally slurped Packard while it fed in the waters.

Whales rarely swallow people, and they definitely do not eat humans. But Packard is not the first reported person to spend some time inside a whale. Live Science wrote diver Rainer Schimpf found himself inside a Bryde's whale in South Africa.

It's super dark

It's easy to think a whale can eat a person. They are some of the largest creatures in the world and serve a vital link in the ecosystem. Most whales, especially the humpback, feed on small sea creatures such as krill. What this means is that their bodies are more suited to filtering seawater than crunching and munching fragile human bones.

Smithsonian Magazine explained some whales like the whale shark know they're not supposed to eat people, so if they accidentally close their mouths around something they're not supposed to, these whales will spit you out. This was exactly what happened to both Packard and Schimpf.

It's not all good, though. According to INSH, there's a story of a sailor swallowed by a sperm whale, so we might have an idea of what bodies go through. Toothed whales like the sperm whale can lacerate a victim with their sharp teeth. These are about as long as an average chef's knife, and they have 40 to 50 of these bad boys. But that's not even the more dangerous thing that can happen to you inside a whale.

If you survive the sharp knives masquerading as teeth, it's time to squeeze through the esophagus. Sperm whales often swallow prey like squid whole, so humans can make it through their throat. A whale's throat is not only a tight space, but it's also dark and slimy. You'll also feel slightly lightheaded from the lack of oxygen and high methane content in the air.

Watch out for the acids

The whale uses its muscles to force you down and starts dissolving foreign material with hydrochloric acid.

Once you make it through the throat, you'll find yourself in the stomach. Well, one of four stomachs. INSH said you'll possibly get a break from the unrelenting darkness thanks to some bioluminescent squid. You might notice in their glow that it looks like your body is disintegrating; that's all thanks to more stomach acids.

As soon as you start enjoying the light, though, the whale's digestive system will begin to move your body through its other stomachs. While going through the rest of the guts, more acids will break down more of your skin, organs, and muscle.

Eventually, you'll reach the anus, and your body will be ejected. Unfortunately, you'll be left as just bones after the stomach acids completely disintegrated your flesh.

But remember that sailor who supposedly got eaten by a sperm whale? While there's some doubt to his story, he apparently survived the inside of a sperm whale with acids only bleaching his skin white and turning him blind. Okay, so the science doesn't bear his story out, but it's something to hope for in the very rare instance you find yourself inside a whale.

So next time you find yourself thinking about Pinocchio being swallowed by a whale, just know that's he's not a real boy, and he'll survive.