Man who got trapped inside a whale's mouth reveals how he managed to escape
Many of us will have heard the story of Jonah and the whale, but who among us is familiar with Rainer Schimpf?
Last week, the 51-year-old dive tour operator had a very lucky escape after being swept into the jaws of a Bryde’s Whale. He had been snorkelling with two colleagues off the coast of his native country of South Africa at the time of the incident, which thankfully left him uninjured.
By sheer chance, the moment was actually caught on camera by his friend, photographer Heinz Toperczer, who had been watching Schimpf from a nearby boat. The pictures very quickly went viral, with many people wondering how the diver managed to get away from the ordeal unscathed.
Now, after having some time to recover, Schimpf revealed has how he escaped.
"There was no time for fear or any emotion," he told the Telegraph.
"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.
"I felt enormous pressure around my waist which is when I guess the whale realized his mistake."
In fact, it was the whale's actions that set Schimpf free.
"As the whale turned sideways, he opened his mouth slightly to release me and I was washed out, together with what felt like tons of water, of his mouth, while the whale himself was swallowing all the fish in his throat."
"I was just holding myself and bracing myself and calming myself down not to be panicked, and it worked out,'' the diver told Today. "He spat me out and everybody's happy."
But in those brief moments of uncertainty, Schimpf was concerned that he was about to be pulled down into the ocean
"My thought was that obviously it can't swallow me, because the throat of a whale is not big enough to swallow a human, and my next thought was it's most likely going to dive down with me,'' he said, noting that he would have been absolutely powerless if that had happened, as "you can't fight a 15-ton animal."
But the gravity of the situation did not strike Schimpf until later on that day.
"On our return in the evening Heinz checked his images and it was only once I saw them that I realized just how lucky I was to be looking at them," he told the Telegraph. "Seconds decide if you become prey, seconds decide your survival and seconds are all that counts."
But the diver bears no animosity towards the whale, and acknowledges that it was "definitely not an attack."
"[The whale] was going for the fish and I happened to be in the wrong spot," he said. "I was collateral damage and I’m sure it was as frightening for the whale as it was for me."
Unlike Jonah, then, Schimpf only had to suffer a few seconds of torment - but that's certainly enough for one lifetime!