“In The Whale” A Must See!

by Debbie Tuma

Calling all fishermen!! Anyone in the fishing industry around Long Island should not miss this amazing documentary film which will be coming back to the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on July 9 at 7:30 pm. Mark your calendars. I had the pleasure of seeing the premiere there on March 2, and coming from a four generation fishing family in Montauk, it blew me away!

Of course we have all heard fishing stories out here, but we have not heard of a human being engulfed inside the mouth of a humpback whale for about 40 pitch black seconds, who lived to tell the story! This is the story that Pulitzer Prize winning reporter David Abel, of the Boston Globe, tells in his new documentary film, “In the Whale.”

On March 2, he introduced this feature-length movie to a packed audience, followed by a Q and A session. Now he is coming back to show it again in summer.

Abel, who covers fisheries and environmental stories for the Boston Globe, first covered this incredible survival story for his newspaper, and then created the film, as director, producer, writer, and photographer. It is the story of long-time Cape Cod fisherman, Michael Packard, who is the region’s last remaining commercial lobster diver. This 57 year-old father has miraculously beat death several times before, by nearly drowning, encountering sharks, and surviving a plane crash in the jungles of Costa Rica, where he had a charter fishing business.

But this time, on a clear June morning in 2021, Packard took a routine dive and got caught in the giant mouth of a humpback whale, while his mate looked on desperately from their boat. Lying sideways in this dark cavity, Packard was sure he would die this time….but then this massive whale spit him out, fins first, in a huge gush of water. His mate, Josiah Mayo, and another fisherman, rescued him, and although his leg was injured from being knocked around, he managed to survive and live a normal life, except for all the publicity, which spread around the world to his instant fame! Packard was featured online and in numerous papers, magazines, and he became a guest on national talk shows.

Following this film in a Q and A, the filmmaker David Abel explained that it was hard for Packard to handle this kind of fame, because by nature he was private and reclusive. He actually loved diving deep below the water, because he found it a serene and calming escape from the reality of his life, which was at times a struggle to survive, especially during the off-season of fishing.

The underwater and other photography in this movie is spectacular, depicting the beauty of this isolated tip of Cape Cod around Provincetown, its fishing community, and even their annual Blessing of the Fleet. Since he had no video of the humpback whale swallowing Packard, he told the story through the fascinating interviews with his family, friends and fellow fishermen in the area.

Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center’s Marketing Director, Heather Draskin, called this film “a life affirming testament to the human spirit…a story of survival, courage and the enduring power of hope.”

Executive Director Julienne Penza-Boone called it “a testament to the unpredictable nature of life, and a voyage into the miraculous.”

David Abel is touring around the country with this movie, to see where it will take him, and with the great response from the audience at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center in March, it will return to the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on July 9, so check their website at https://whbpac.org/ or call the box office at 631-288-1500 for tickets, before it sells out!