Heather and her twisted sister,
No need to apologize - Actually if you work with
whales you tend to get this question a lot - what with
Jonah and Ahab and all of that.
O.K fasten you seat belts ...
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. Sperm whales have been
caught with entire giant squids (weighing over 400
pounds) in their stomachs.
So let's say you get caught - what happens next.
Well, sperm whales have teeth, so you would have to
avoid those going down. As you know from the story,
Ahab lost a piece this way.
OK you get to the stomach - in your SCUBA gear - all
in one piece. Will your suit protect you?
Now, I could suggest an experiment here but it would
involve getting a wet suit and - well - throwing up on
it and ... wait a minute I have been seasick on a dive
boat on a rough day and - yes - I can say that I have
done a version of this experiment myself - and (now
this is a rather limited sample I admit, but) - based
on personal observation I'd say that my wet suit was
not digested - at least by my stomach contents anyway.
Actually, there is a bit more to it than that. Did
you ever wonder why your stomach does not digest
itself? Part of that has to do with the lining of
your stomach, but part of it has to do with the fact
that living tissue does not digest the same way that
food does. So I'd bet that, digestion would not do
Other problems? Like being crushed? Hard to say, but
that whole squid story makes you think that you might
not be crushed right away either. So maybe you would
just have to wait until your SCUBA bubbles made the
whale uncomfortable enough to spit you back up.
But here is the big question - has there ever been a
person that claimed to have been there - swallowed by
a sperm whale and lived...AND...is there any proof
that the story was true?
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
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
According to the story, Bartley eventually 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
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
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....
--- H Lee <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> I was having a discussion with my sister about Moby
> Dick and we were
> wondering what exactly would happen if you were
> swallowed by a whale, while
> wearing full scuba gear. If he/she couldn't
> suffocate, how would he/she die?
> We thought about the digestive system of a whale and
> wondered if it was
> similiar to humans, in that stomach acid broke down
> food. Would the scuba
> person be killed by the stomach acid, would he/she
> be chewed up, would this
> person be physical beaten to death by the
> circumstances, or are we way off
> base? Not a very scientific question, we know, but
> thought you might have
> the answer we were looking for.
> Two Psychologically Disturbed Sisters
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