Jonah was shallowed by a whale in the Bible, but is there any evidence a man has ever been swallowed whole by a whale and lived, however briefly, to reflect on the experience? Ben Shattuck investigates.
An idea’s been floating around for some time that whales more than chewed people — that they swallowed them, and people might have survived in the stomach. Jonah’s story came first, and then there were rumors from the 19th century Yankee Whale Fishery — whaling ships leaving New York and New England ports for years on the open ocean. I’d like to believe in swallowings, but it’s tough. There is no air in the stomach, for one. There are acids. And if we are talking about sperm whales, which we are most of the time, there is the deadly passage through the 30-foot jaws lined with 8-inch teeth.