Not long ago Rainer Schimpf, an animal photographer and director of a tour operator found himself inside the mouth of a whale before being spat out. The incredible scene only lasted a couple of seconds.
The sardine migration of Port Elizabeth Harbour in South Africa is one of the biggest in the animal world of the southern hemisphere. At certain points in the year gannets, penguins, seals, dolphins, whales and sharks all come to this area to make the most of the banquet that is on offer. Rainer Schimpf, an animal photographer and director of a tour operator in the town, is used to this event. Every year he goes out to document the migration. Except this time around he ended up being taken for a meal as well.
This chance encounter was something neither Mr Schimf nor the whale was prepared for. Mr Schimf who is 51 years old, was in the process of filming when the accident happened. As we can see in the images broadcast on YouTube by Barcroft Media that the man found himself half swallowed by the animal. But he reacted straightaway. “It all went dark. I felt pressure on my hips”, he explains. “There is no time to be scared in a situation like this. You need to use your instinct. I held my breath straight away as I though it was going to dive and then release me in a deeper place in the ocean.”
“Whales don’t eat humans”
Fortunately, the whale also known as a Balaenoptera edeni edeni or a Bryde’s whale, quickly realised the man was not good to eat and spat him out a few seconds later. It is hard to say who out of the two was the most surprised.
“When then have their mouth open wide, whales can’t really see what is in front of them. I suppose this one thought that it was a dolphin,” explained Claudia Weber-Gebert a diving instructor. Whales don’t eat humans so we know this wasn’t meant to be an attack. Ms Weber-Gerbert explains how whales are gentle creatures and are very sensitive so this would have only been an accident.
Anyway, even if the whale wanted to mix up its diet, it would not have been able to swallow the poor man. Bryde’s whales – like other cetaceans – have a relatively narrow esophagus that only consumes small prey such as plankton, krill and sardines.