Good question, that a lot of people have been asking for a long time. My
answers are below...
From: lkirkwood [SMTP:email@example.com]
Sent: Thursday, October 10, 2002 7:28 PM
Dear Mr. Early,
My name is Victoria. I am in 6th grade and homeschooled. I love to study
plants and animals and am doing a report on whales. The Bible story of
Jonah speaks of a great fish swallowing him.
I have found conflicting reports on whether whales could indeed swallow a
man whole (some articles say their throat is too small). I have found that
sperm whales probably would be the most likely candidate for this story
altho it could have been a pre-historic animal also.
My questions are:
Could a whale (and what type) swallow a man whole?
There is no doubt, and most scientists agree, that some whales could
swallow a human whole. There is some debate about whether the baleen
whales could (it seems unlikely) but nearly all agree that sperm whales are
the most likely candidate.
What type of whale could do that if any?
Sperm whales have been caught with entire giant squids (weighing over 400
pounds) in their stomachs.
Have you ever heard of a whale or shark swallowing a man whole?
Yes, as a matter of fact. Keep in mind I also hear a lot of things that
are hogwash, but there are some accounts that have been published, and
checked, and seem to be real of entire people showing up in the stomachs of
some sharks and in one case a sperm whale. Keep in mind that in all of
these accounts the people were very dead.
Have you ever heard of a story of a man being swallowed by a "fish" and
If you do not include being bitten or partly swallowed and immediately spit
out (grabbed but let go, basically). No I have not heard of any. This
would include big fish (like groupers...which are probably big enough to
swallow a little person, or a couple of species of shark that are certainly
large enough to swallow a person whole, if so inclined...)
Do you know of a website that would help me in my research?
You might try this one...http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/hub/A449345
I appreciate your time in answering my questions. Thank you, Victoria
But here is the big question...has there ever been a story about a person
that was swallowed by a sperm whale and lived...AND... is there any proof?
As it turns out there was such a person. In the late 1800's a man named
James Bartley claimed to have been a whaleman aboard a British whaleship
the "Star of the East". The ship was hunting whales off of South America
in 1891 when a sperm whale was spotted. Two whale boats went out to catch
the whale. One boat was wrecked by the whale, one sailor drowned and one
(Bartley) was lost and could not be found. The second boat killed the
whale and towed it to the ship. The next day, when the stomach of the
whale was brought up on deck and cut open, Bartley was found inside the
stomach of the whale. A bit worse for wear (it was said that his hair was
gone and his face and hands were bleached "like parchment"). Eventually
Bartley made a full recovery (although he retained the strange coloring of
his skin) and became somewhat of a local celebrity around England. His
story was printed in popular accounts and newspapers at the time, and has
shown up quite often since then as a tale of the "Modern Jonah". That's
the story anyway... how true might it be? Records show that there was a
ship called the "Star of the East" that was sailing in the right place at
the right time. The only problem is that it was not a whale ship.
Checking records of the ship show no one named Bartley on any of the
voyages. The wife of the captain (who was on all of the trips the ship
took) was interviewed about the incident and said that it did not happen
and that Bartley had made up a "fish story". What we do know is that right
about the time that the story of Bartley broke there was a dead whale that
had been harpooned near shore and was being exhibited around the coast of
England. Skeptics say that Bartley may have made up the whole story to
cash in on the publicity generated by the whale exhibit and used an odd
skin condition he had as "proof". But it seems that this is about as close
as the facts can get us and we will likely never know for sure....
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