Fact Check: Whale Did NOT 'Swallow' Two Kayakers

Fact Check

  • by: Madison Dapcevich

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.

Fact Check: Whale Did NOT 'Swallow' Two Kayakers Skewed Angle

Does a video posted to social media show a whale "just swallow up some folks whole"? No, that's not true: While the video is real, the breaching humpback whale it shows that capsized a kayak, knocking two women briefly into the water, did not "swallow" either woman or their boat, one of the women told Lead Stories.

A version of this claim originated in a video on Instagram on June 5, 2023, with a caption that read:

Way'ment..... did that Whale just swallow up some folks whole?!? 👀😳😳😳

Ok, that's quite ENOUGH internets for me tonight! #HeyGoogleDisconnectANiggaFromTheInternets

Below is how the post appeared at the time of writing:

Screenshot 2023-06-08 at 1.05.32 PM.png

(Source: Instagram screengrab taken Thurs June 8 19:05:32 UTC 2023)

Julie McSorley, one of the women shown in the video, confirmed to Lead Stories that neither she nor her friend Liz Cottriel of San Luis Obispo, California, had been swallowed or eaten by the whale.
"The bait ball came up under our boat and the whale breached. It lifted the kayak up. It was a double kayak with my friend Liz in the front. We both dumped out of the kayak into the whale's mouth. The kayak slid out of the whale. The whale's mouth closed around us and we were fully engulfed in his mouth with the exception of half my right arm which stuck out of his mouth," McSorley told Lead Stories in a text received June 9, 2023.
"Humpback whales have baleen, which strains ocean water for their food, and eat small fish that can fit down their throat which is about the width of a grapefruit. Anything bigger is basically spit out."
The entire event took about 10 seconds, McSorley said.

The original video was first captured in November 2020, according to various credible news accounts published at the time. Although numerous credible publications reported that the two women shown in the video were knocked out of their kayak after it was capsized by a humpback whale, various outlets have since followed the false trope that the women and their boat were also swallowed by the whale.

The event was captured by phone on two different devices, each with their own perspective. In the first video, in the post on Instagram, it appears as if the breaching whale fully engulfed a kayak along with its paddlers. However, a second angle clearly showed the whale hitting the kayak from underneath the ocean surface to displace both the vessel and its passengers.

An interview with St. Louis-based KSDK News and McSorley and Cottriel describing the event was published shortly after the event on YouTube on November 3, 2020. At no point during the interview did either woman state that they or their kayak had been swallowed "whole."

Lead Stories has debunked other claims surrounding marine animals, including that a great white shark did not try to attack a parasailer, that a photo did not show one of the largest blue whales ever caught on camera and that there were no "freshwater sharks" found in a Maryland lake.


  • 2023-06-09T20:43:27Z 2023-06-09T20:43:27Z
    Updates with comments from Julie McSorley.

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  Madison Dapcevich

Raised on an island in southeast Alaska, Madison grew up a perpetually curious tidepooler and has used that love of science and innovation in her now full-time role as a science reporter for the fact-checking publication Lead Stories.

Read more about or contact Madison Dapcevich

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