A claustrophobia-inducing video has surfaced of a South African diver who narrowly missed becoming a scrumptious snack – or at least a choking hazard – for a Bryde’s whale.
The footage first made the rounds in 2014 when marine wildlife photographer and conservationist Rainer Schimpf was diving off the South African Coast when one of the 15-meter-long (49-foot) whales broke the surface of the water in a feeding attempt. Fortunately for Schimpf, who was filming just a few feet away, the whales are baleen feeders belonging to the same group as blue whales and humpback whales. It’s likely the whale was coincidentally lunging from below in search of small crustaceans, cephalopods, and fish that they are known to eat.
Barcroft TV, who published the video on YouTube, claims that the 51-year-old’s “very rare” near-miss occurred in the month of February when Rainer and his team were documenting a sardine run – “a natural event where gannets, penguins, seals, dolphins, whales, and sharks work together to gather the fish into bait balls.” Rainer, who describes himself as the CEO of a tour operations company on his Facebook page, was filming the event for “educational and environmental purposes.”
IFLScience reached out to the diver for further clarification but has not received a response at the time of publication.
Regardless, Barcroft TV says Rainer had his team had just split into two groups roughly 25 nautical miles from shore when the sea “suddenly churned up”.
“Looming up out of darkness below came a Bryde’s whale shooting up into the ball of fish, gulping all in its path,” he told AFP, adding that his legs were hanging from the whale’s mouth.
"Unlike Jonah, who spent three days in the belly of a whale according to the biblical story, it was a “matter of seconds” before the “whale realized its mistake and opened its mouth, releasing me. I was washed out with what felt like tonnes of water from its mouth.”
Fortunately, Schimpf says he didn’t suffer from broken bones or any cracked ribs.