From: Pieter Folkens (
Date: Thu Apr 10 2003 - 01:00:50 EDT

  • Next message: Erich Hoyt: "Re: northern right whale"

    On Tuesday, April 8, 2003, at 09:25 PM, Matt Smith wrote:

    > I am attempting to settle a dispute between myself and
    > a co-worker. We are most interested in finding out
    > whether or not it would be possible for a human to
    > survive, if only for a short time, after being
    > swallowed whole by a whale. Is this sort of thing
    > even possible? Any clarification would be very
    > helpful. Thanks in advance.

    The key word is 'swallow.' The gullet of any whale is not all that big
    (about the size of a large grapefruit in the blue whale the largest
    whale). And once past the gullet, there is no air whatsoever, so a
    human would survive only as long as they could hold their breath and a
    few moments longer until the brain is deprived of oxygen.

    There is an apocryphal explanation of the Jonah story in which Jonah
    was cast over board, 'swallowed' by a whale, and survived to tell
    about. Since the whale's mouth is so large (in this story/legend the
    whale is a right whale based on the etymology of the terms that survive
    in the oldest record of the story), Jonah supposedly hung out in the
    mouth for a few days, perhaps breathing as the whale swam at the
    surface skim feeding.


    Pieter Folkens

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