Images of the moment Rainier Schimpf, a deep sea diver and director of Dive Experts Tours, was picked up in the mouth of a whale were captured on film as he and a group were documenting a sardine run. Schimpf noticed the water churning around him when he was suddenly sucked into the mouth of a Bryde whale.
The incident took place off the coast of Port Elizabeth Harbour, east of Cape Town, according to a report by the Daily Mail.
Schimpf, who hails from South Africa, managed to escape the large mammal’s mouth, surviving the potentially fatal encounter.
Schimpf and his team had split into two groups, aiming to document a sardine run that usually attracts a variety of sea life, including seals, dolphins, penguins, sharks, and whales.
The team was 25 nautical miles from shore when the water started to churn. Schimpf ended up in a whale’s mouth, creating an image reminiscent of the Bible’s Jonah.
At the time of the near-swallowing, Schimpf was filming a shark as it worked its way through the bait ball. Then, his surroundings grew dark, and he felt the massive beast grab his body.
“I could feel the pressure on my hip, there is no time for fear in a situation like that – you have to use your instinct,” said Schimpf.
“Nothing can actually prepare you for the event when you end up inside the whale – it’s pure instinct,” he continued.
“I held my breath because I thought he is going to dive down and release me much deeper in the ocean; it was pitch black inside.”
Schimpf’s colleague, photographer Heinz Toperczer, managed to capture the incident, focusing on Schimpf as the horrifying scene unfolded.
He later described the event, discussing how he could see dolphins leaping out of the water and a dense white spray erupt as the whale emerged with his colleague in its mouth.
After being spit out by the whale, Schimpf managed to return to the boat. He was, fortunately, unharmed.
Bryde Whales can reach 40 to 55 feet in length and are most commonly found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. The massive mammals are typically dark gray and have the ability to dive to a depth of 300 meters.