A man was swept into the mouth of a whale, yet he somehow survived.
A South African dive tour operator, Rainer Schimpf, was nearly swallowed by a whale as he was swept into its jaws during a sardine feeding last month. Schimpf, 51, was snorkeling near Port Elizabeth Harbour when a series of photos captured him being pulled into the whale’s mouth, headfirst.
“There was no time for fear or any emotion,” he said. “I knew instantly what had happened. I knew that a whale had come and taken me and I instinctively held my breath, assuming that it would dive down again and spit me out somewhere in the depths of the Indian Ocean.”
Lucky for him, that’s not what happened. Bryde’s whales can dive for five to 15 minutes, reaching depths of 1,000 feet. A photographer who witnessed the scene from nearby boat immediately began snapping away, capturing everything but Schimpf’s legs vanishing inside the mammal.
Fortunately, almost as soon as the unfortunate gulp began, Schimpf said, the whale released its jaw, allowing him to slip free to the surface.
Schimpf and Witness describe it as a lucky break.“Whales are no man-eaters,” witness Claudia Weber-Gebert said in an interview. “This was no attack. It was no fault of the whale. They are really sensitive, they are gentle giants, and it was just an accident.”
The Schimpf also suggested that the whale was just as surprised as he was. “It was an interesting experience for me but surely nothing I’d like to do again,” he said. “I don’t think I had a whale of a time, but I now have the inside knowledge of a whale which nobody else has.”
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