Sunday, September 17, 2006

A whale of a tale

A couple of weeks ago, Chrissa and I were in Sunday School and our teacher, Bro. Cavenaugh, was talking about Jonah.

He asked the question, "Are there any accounts of people having been swallowed by a whale or a fish?"

I opened my big mouth and said, "Actually, there was a Japanese sailor on a whaling boat that was swallowed by a whale. They killed the whale and when they cut its stomach open they found him, bleached white by the stomach acids, but otherwise alive."

Bro. Cavenaugh looked a little bit stunned and then went on with his lesson. Chrissa leaned over and said, "I don't think that was the answer he was looking for."

I decided to find out if what I had said was true or not. I vaguely remember being told this story myself, but I can't remember when or where. So I started looking online and, I'll tell does not look good! First off, I haven't been able to find ANYTHING dealing with a Japanese whaler being swallowed--only Japanese fishermen killing a Great White shark that had the skeleton of a man, obviously not alive. I've only found 3 cases of humans being swallowed, and one of a dog. Here are the humans:

  • James Bartleby
A sailor on the "Star of the East," a British whaling vessel. James Bartleby allegedly was swallowed by a sperm whale around the year 1889, off the Falkland Islands. This case has been often cited in Christian literature and continues to be so online. However, a history professor named Edward B. Davis carried out a very thorough investigation and does a good job of debunking the tale.
  • Marshall Jenkins
A Bostonian who supposedly was swallowed by a sperm whale in the South Seas in 1771, but apparently was immediately vomited up. Not as published as the Bartleby story (probably because he wasn't in the stomach as long) and so I haven't been able to find anything for or against it. But, either way, not the story I was quoting.
  • A Reader's Digest article
In an article written to support a literal reading of the Bible, an author references a Reader's Digest article written about whale sharks, including the story of a man swallowed by a whale shark and recovered 48 hours later, alive. He doesn't give a citation. I've written Reader's Digest and the site managers to see if I can get a reference. If so, this could be the "Moby Dick" I'm hunting.

By the way, just in case it wasn't obvious: my whole point of writing about this isn't to prove whether or not the Book of Jonah really happened. It's to see if I'm a liar.

I'll let you know if I hear anything back about that Reader's Digest article. But, for now, it looks like I'm going to have to come clean to Bro. Cavenaugh...


Dan said...

I'm impressed at the effort you're putting into this!

Marci said...

You know, J -- that's one thing I've always liked about you:

Like me, you often share things that may not be true...

Like me, you sometimes wonder: is that true? I know that I've heard it, but maybe it's not true...

Unlike me, you actually CHECK to see if it is true or not.

You rock. I suck. Oh well. We're both entertaining storytellers, eh?

By the way, my word verification was odumyun. Rad.

Anonymous said...

My recollection of this is reading a newspaper article of this account while in high school. This would put it 1986 to 1990 range. Memories are fallible, so I could be wrong. But I do have the same Japanese fisherman tale in my head, and it definitely came from some kind of written account. I thought I even saw a photo at the time. I'll be looking too!

Josh said...

I came across this blog as I was looking for pictures of a Japanese man from Okinawa, whose skin was made pale by stomach acids in a whale. He was swallowed, and found alive by British whalers. They cut the whale opened and he fell out alive. The story was told to me by a professor of mine, who is certainly not quick to offer proofs to biblical stories.

I found the story intriguing. By the way, my prof told me that he read it in National Geographic in the 60s. He's an old man, so the date could actually be in the 50s or 70s... I'll be checking back!

Anonymous said...

I read an account of a man being swallowed by a whale, then rescued. The whale was cut open and the man was bleached white. I read this in the mid-1970's--in the National Enquirer, so probably not very credible!

amos said...

Wether or not these other accounts of man-eating fish stories are true has no bearing on wether or not God made this happen with Jonah. It's just so interesting that there are other 'rumors' or stories of this nature. It's fun to pass these stories along and would be interesting to know if they really are true. Hmmmmm. Maybe we'll never know....we just have to believe!!!

Anonymous said...

I too remember stories from the 80's/90's about this; which is how I came across this page. I thought it was in the national enquirer.

Dan K said...

I saw an account with pictures in the National Geographic magazine in about the mid 1970s

Val Lee said...

There was a story with one or more photos in Reader's Digest. There were plenty of witnesses. The color photo was shot on a fishing boat where the whale was caught. If I remember correctly, the man's skin was bleached white. This was maybe in the 60s, possibly 70s.

Of course, regarding Jonah in the Bible, God created a "Great fish" for this event; and no doubt, one of a kind! John 3:16 "For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life."