Dive tour operator Rainer Schimpf was documenting a sardine run in February off the coast of South Africa when something unexpected and terrified happened: Schimpf was sucked into the mouth of a whale and then spat out, and the whole thing was caught on camera.
Photographer Heinz Toperczer was photographing Schimpf at work when his rapid-fire series of shots captured the incident as it unfolded. Schimpf’s and Toperczer’s accounts of the encounter, as well as photos and videos, can be seen in the 4-minute video above by Barcroft Animals.
Schimpf was been working as a diver and tour operator for over 15 years, and he annually documents the sardine run — an epic natural event in which fish-eating animals (e.g. gannets, penguins, seals, dolphins, whales and sharks) gather to feast on sardines. Filming the expedition for educational and environmental purposes, Schimpf led his team about 25 nautical miles from shore before beginning the shoot.
But while in the midst of documenting the aquatic feast, the sea suddenly churned up around Schimpf and he found himself momentarily stuck head-first in a Bryde’s whale’s mouth.