In February 2019, Rainer Schimpf, a 51-year-old dive tour operator was photographing a mass of sardines off the coast of South Africa. In an unbelievable turn of events, he soon found himself inside of the mouth of a large Bryde’s whale.
He was in the water and surrounded by a school of sardines known as a “bait ball” when he was suddenly in total total darkness. Feeling the pressure on his hips, he came to the realization that he was in the mouth of a whale.
He claimed that “There is no time for fear in a situation like that, you have to use your instincts.” He then held his breath, expecting that the animal would dive down and eventually release him. However, he expected that he would be released deep underwater.
Luckily for Schimpf, the behemoth of an animal wasn’t happy with what it had caught in its mouth and spit him out within a matter of seconds. It has been assumed that the whale wasn’t paying attention and didn’t expect to find Schimpf inside of its mouth either.
The whale was a Bryde’s whale which average around 43 to 45 feet in length. Despite anyone’s fear of being inside the mouth of a whale, the President of the Cetacean Society, Uko Gorter claimed that Schimpf was never in any danger of being swallowed. Bryde’s whales open their mouth to suck in fish but then filter the through their baleen plates in their mouth before swallowing. Their throats are also much too small to swallow a human.
Although this may have been a brand new experience for Schimpf, apparently, this happens to these types of whales all the time when feeding on bait balls. They charge through the water only to find something else in their mouth, harmlessly spitting it out. Everyone was just thankful that Schimpf was unharmed.