Wednesday, September 18, 2013

He saw a man swallowed by a whale

He saw two large Sperm Whale three miles away
He saw two boats launched
He saw them them spear the fish
He saw the second boat upset by the lash of a whale's tale
He saw the men thrown into the sea.
He saw a man be drowned and another,
James Bartley, be disappeared, and not to be found.

He saw the whale lying by the ship's side
He saw the crew busy with axes and spades
He saw them removing the blubber
He saw them make the tackle to its stomache
He saw the sailors start
When they saw Bartley writhing inside.

He saw them lay Bartley out upon the deck
He saw them treat him to a bath of salt water
He saw Bartley rise, raving
He saw him rave for half a moon
He saw the man who was swallowed by a whale
and resumed his duties after twenty one days.

From Ambrose John Wilson, The Sign of the Prophet Jonah and its Modern Confirmation, vol. 25, Princeton Theological Review, 1927.


  1. I'm fascinated by this. A true story? How terrifying and nightmarish. How could anyone ever be the same again?

  2. How did he breath, or rather, how did he go so long without air? In fact,(IMHO) I believe that the blubber was cut off while the whale was tied alongside the ship, and it is unlikely the men would have bothered to inspect the guts, which were deep inside & worthless for oil. So they wouldn't have seen them. Nice parallel to the biblical story though.

  3. Well, I guess the fact that the story was published in a theology journal may indicate some wishful thinking. But, like flood narratives, stories of people being swallowed by whales and spat out alive are universal. The local Menang population has one. And what about the Goodies? Oh, no that was a dinosaur if I remember rightly.

    Anyway, it is a curious tale in itself and its myth busting would be a pity. But if you want to follow it up, there is the journal, which has probably been digitalised by now. The man's name was Bartley. The whaling ship was called the Star of the East and it was off the coast of the Falkland Islands.

    And when he emerged from the whale, he no longer had finger prints.

  4. I agree with Mr Heron (again) This is an archetypal theme - being 'swallowed' is a psycho-mythical construct (again I won't bore you with it here)Great to see it turning up in the colony though.

  5. I like this. very visual.... I listened to Moby Dick on Librivox a while back and enjoyed the images it described. This reminds me of it.