Subject: digestive systems of whales

Lindsay J Porter (
Thu, 3 Jul 1997 12:09:03 +0800

>	Can you tell me what type of whale could Jonah have entered the belly of
and survived for three days?  What would it be like in a whale's belly?  I
am working on a sermon for church.  Thanks!  Paula Albrandt 
Dear Paula,
I have searched for a 'reliable' ref on which species of whale may have been
n the Jonah story - and have found none.  SO assuming that the whale was a
large baleen the gut would be large and open - although very dark and, I
should imagine, smelling of fish - baleen whales eat small crustaceans so
imagine tonnes of small creatures there too - in addition to it being
extremely acidic (digestive juices).  Whales skim the surface while feeding
and also swim at depth - so motion inside the whale stomach would be akin to
being on a roller coaster - albeit a slow one.  A colleague of mine was once
trapped inside a Brydes whale (a largish baleen) while conducting an autopsy
- the winch line that was keeping the rib cage prised apart, while he took
samples from the gut, snapped and the rib cage closed.  Although trapped
inside the whale for only a few minutes, while the winch was secured to
another piece of line, he said it was one of the darkest moments of his life
- not to mention the smelliest!  I have come across several references to
people being swallowed by whales - and surviving.  The book I was reading
was an anthology of fishing stories - the book isn't actually mine but while
I track down the full reference the book title is 
"Fish, fishing and the meaning of life" by Jeremy Paxton.

I shall email again with more details of the book - in the meantime I hope
this little information is of help.

best wishes

Lindsay J Porter
Dolphin Research Group
The Swire Institute of Marine Science
The University of Hong Kong
Cape d'Aguilar
Shek O
Hong Kong