A video showing two women being swallowed by a humpback whale while kayaking has been widely circulated in recent days. However, seconds later, the animal spits them back to the surface since its throat does not have the capacity to ingest a human being.
According to Nicola Hodgins of Whale and Dolphin Conservation, a humpback whale’s mouth can be around 10 feet wide, but its throat is only about the size of a human fist and can expand to around 15 inches in diameter for larger food items. This explains why the animal expelled the two women shortly after capturing them in its mouth.
Although the video has recently gone viral, it is actually about an incident that happened two years ago. The events took place in the bay of San Luis Obispo, California, when two friends, Julie McSorley and Liz Cottriel, were kayaking. After being ejected by the whale, the women received emergency care from local authorities. Fortunately, they did not suffer serious injuries.
This incident is not unique, as there have been other cases where humans have ended up in the mouths of whales. In 2019, in the port of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, an operator was trapped in the mouth of a humpback whale, which also spat him out seconds later. The same thing happened with a diver off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, United States, in 2021.
According to National Geographic, of the 90 known species of whales, sperm whales are the only ones whose throats are large enough to theoretically swallow a human. However, the chances of this happening are extremely low, as human-sperm whale encounters are extremely rare.