(Gray News) – Add Rainer Schimpf’s name to the list that includes Jonah and Pinocchio. All three have been swallowed by whales.
The diver was swimming off the coast of South Africa when suddenly a Bryde’s whale had him in its jaws.
“The next moment, it got dark and I felt some pressure on my hip,” Schimpf told Bancroft Animals in a video posted to YouTube over the weekend. “Instantly, I held my breath, because my thought was now he’s going to dive down and release me at some point in time, much deeper in the ocean.”
Bryde’s whales are known to dive up to 1,000 feet, which is why he held his breath.
Schimpf’s been working as a dive tour operator for more than 15 years out of Port Elizabeth and his team was documenting an annual sardine run that sparks a feeding frenzy among marine life.
He was trying to film a shark when the whale was upon him.
“Once I felt the pressure, I instantly knew a whale had grabbed me,” Schimpf said. “There is no time for fear in a situation like that. You have to use your instinct.”
The whole ordeal lasted just a few seconds and Schimpf soon popped to the surface and swam to the boat where his colleague Heinz Toperczer had been filming.
“Once I got to the boat, I just looked at Heinz and I said, ‘Did you get it?’ and he said, ‘Yes, I got it,’ and I knew it was a very special event and a special moment.”
Despite their massive size, Bryde’s whales are not maneaters. They’re are known to grow up to 40-55 feet in length and weigh up to 45 tons.
Their diet consists of krill, copepods, red crabs, shrimp, as well as a variety of schooling fishes, such as herring, mackerel, pilchards, and sardines, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
As much of a surprise as the encounter was for Schimpf, he’s sure it was a surprise for the whale as well.
“It was an interesting experience for me, but surely nothing I want to do again,” he said. “I don’t think I had a whale of a time.”