A whale is one of those respectable and imposing animals, even for a diver, who, although he thinks he knows the behavior of these enormous mammals, is never prepared to become their snack.
Slipping between prey and a predator sometimes has unexpected consequences. Rainer Schimpf is one of the few people lucky enough to have done it and be able to tell about it.
Perhaps things would have been different if the animal that had swallowed him had been a shark. But no, it was a whale. A Bryde’s whale, to be more exact, that was walking along the South African coast and that he «kindly» decided to throw Schimpf back into the sea after having kept it for two minutes in his mouth next to his dinner.
Rainer Schimpf is a diver with many years of experience, who has made countless trips to document the migration of sardines to southern Africa.
The diver could not imagine that he would be swallowed by a whale
His work has allowed him to observe the most unlikely animals up close, but he never thought that he would get to know the inside of a whale.
Rainer and his team were recently off the shores of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, when something happened that took their breath away.
Rainer was in the water taking a look at the animals of the place. He knew that in Port Elizabeth he could get dolphins, gannets and even sharks but he never imagined that he would find a huge whale.
The Bryde’s Whale is a species that can measure up to 15 meters and weigh 20 tons. It rarely allows itself to be photographed, so they had no news of its presence in that area.
From one moment to the next, Rainer felt enormous pressure on his hips and everything went black: A fin whale had swallowed him.
“I felt something strong around my waist and I knew right away. It was only a few seconds. The whale realized his mistake and opened its mouth to spit at me,” Rainer said.
A few meters away was Heinz Toperczer, the photographer who was part of the team. Before realizing the enormous danger his fellow diver was facing, he took some images that captured it perfectly.
After ruling out that the hole was that of a shark, he decided, almost instinctively, to hold his breath.
“The only thing I was worried about was that it might drag me down and release me into the depths of the Indian Ocean,” recalls Schimpf.
Seconds later, they all realized that the whale had spat back at Rainer and they were able to verify that he had not suffered any injuries.
“I imagine for the whale it was terrifying as well. They are very sensitive animals and attentive to what is around them but when they open their mouths they do not see what is in front of them”, said Claudia Weber, a diver who was present.
Fortunately, the whale realized that Rainer was not one of its prey and immediately returned it. The strength of these animals is amazing, so it is a true miracle that Rainer did not suffer any injuries.
“It was a very interesting experience for me but it’s definitely something I don’t want to go through again,” Rainer said.
«I knew that he was not going to swallow me because he had not done it on purpose, he simply did not see me,» said the diver, who after encountering nearly 100 cetaceans, is convinced that the whale was definitely friendly thanks to sympathy. what she saw in him.
The confused diver immediately returned to the boat and asked the photographer if he had managed to capture that unique moment.
“I want to clarify that whales do not eat people. This was not an attack. It wasn’t the whale’s fault. They are gentle giants. It was just an accident,» said Claudia Weber.
«I knew I hadn’t been swallowed by a shark, because I would be dead,» Rainer said.
It is practically the only thing that Schimpf can remember today of that day that has marked his life ever since.
It’s nice to know that the whale was kind because he sensed that Rainer wouldn’t hurt him. It is what every little animal should be able to live.