A man out for a dive in South Africa just got the surprise of his life.
It was a bright and sunny day in February, and Rainer Schimpf — who has been leading diving expeditions for over 15 years at AB Marine Dolphin and Whale Watching — was out in the water with a documentary film crew when things suddenly went dark.
“It got dark and I felt some pressure on my hip,” Schimpf said. “Once I felt the pressure I instantly knew a whale had gripped me.”
The whale was a Bryde’s whale, who can grow up to 55 feet long and weigh 90,000 pounds.
“There is no time for fear in a situation like that,” Schimpf said. He somehow managed to retain the knowledge that whales like this are gentle giants, and that the whale whose mouth he was currently in actually meant him no harm.
At the same time, there was little Schimpf could do.
“The whale [was] considerably larger than Rainer and he realized that resistance would be futile,” Alan Straton, a spokesperson with AB Marine, told The Dodo.
Schimpf just had to wait for the whale to realize he wasn’t a large fish after all and release him.
“He made sure he had air and relaxed, knowing that [because] the whale’s throat is too small to swallow him, it would eventually expel him,” Straton said.
The team Schimpf was with managed to snap a few photos of him while he was trapped in the whale’s jaws before he was set free mere seconds later.
“The next moment … I was washed out of the mouth,” Schimpf said. “It gives me a connection to the whale which I don’t think anyone else had before … I’m sure it was a surprise for the whale as well.
The documentary crew was out to catch sight of the incredible “sardine run,” a phenomenal movement of fish and other ocean life along the coast of South Africa — and with this legendary whale encounter, they captured more amazing footage than they ever expected.
“These sentient giants of the ocean bear humans no malice,” Straton added. “This is one more reason to protect and nurture them and all the creatures of the sea.”