Whales are huge creatures that normally stay away from the human kind, but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t interacted with them in the past. In fact, some people can’t help but wonder what would happen if a human was swallowed by a whale?
The world is full of so many amazing animals, and many of them are much larger than we could ever imagine. Of course, these animals – such as elephants, lions, giraffes, bears, and crocodiles – aren’t the kind of animals that we’d get up close and personal with on a daily basis (no, thank you), and they certainly aren’t the kind of animals that we would invite into our houses as pets. This is especially true when it comes to whales…
Most people don’t have giant bodies of water in their back yard to house a whale, and it’s safe to say that a large majority of the population has never seen a whale in their lives. Yet, that doesn’t mean that humans have been completely devoid of the ol’ whale action. Divers, boats, and swimmers often encounter these magnificent beasts from afar, but we can’t help but wonder if things have gotten a little more up close and personal in terms of humankind and these water dwellers. Indeed, what would happen if you were swallowed by a whale?
A huge animal
Although there are some huge animals in this world, the whale takes the crown as one of the largest species on the planet.
In fact, the blue whale sits at the number one top spot and is quickly followed by other whales such as the fin whale, sperm whale, right whale, bowhead whale, and humpback whale.
Anyone who has seen a photograph of any kind of whale will know that it’s not as cute and cuddly as an adorable puppy, but they are still pretty majestic. Perhaps that’s why so many people choose to try and see these guys in the wild. Although most people don’t think about the possibility of potentially becoming a whale’s dinner…
Interacting in the wild
We often hear stories of humans interacting with these majestic beasts, and most of the time, this happens in the wild.
While there are whales in captivity, a large portion of people head out on whale watching boats or dive beneath the surface to catch a glimpse of this amazing species.
Pretty cool, right? In fact, you’ve probably seen numerous videos and photographs of unsuspecting paddle boarders and surfers who head out on the water and get to experience the wonder of these animals. When this happens, those unfamiliar with whales get the chance to see just how big they really are.
All about the size
Many people will try and tell you that size doesn’t matter, but there’s no doubt about the fact that whales are enormous creatures.
As the largest known animal that this world has to offer, the blue whale glides through the water using its 98-foot-long body, and it’s been suggested that they weigh around 173 tons.
To put that into perspective, that’s about thirty times as heavy as a fully-sized tyrannosaurus rex! Of course, smaller whales aren’t quite as large, but they’re still pretty impressive. What most people don’t realize, however, is that their exterior body isn’t the only thing that’s larger than life.
The blue whale
As the biggest creature to live within the animal kingdom, it’s fair to say that everything about the blue whale is huge. That’s especially true when it comes to its tongue.
A blue whale’s tongue can often weigh the same size as an average elephant – and it’s safe to say that it’s pretty beastly.
Because their tongues are so big, a blue whale’s mouth is also much larger than most people imagine. It’s so large that this animal could actually hold between 400 and 500 people in its mouth at one time. While that hasn’t been tested, we can’t imagine that too many people would volunteer to see whether that’s correct or not.
Looking like a snack
With such a huge mouth to contend with, it would be pretty easy for a human to be swallowed by a whale, right? When you think about it, this could make sense in theory.
Sharks often mistake divers and swimmers in the ocean for seals, and that’s often how people find themselves at the mercy of shark attacks.
Considering large toothed whales such as the humpback and the baleen whale eat seals on a regular basis, it’s easy to see how a whale would become confused while in the presence of a swimmer in a wetsuit. In the whales’ (giant) eyes, this is just another meal for them. In the human’s eyes, this is a swimming experience gone seriously wrong.
A close call
Over the course of humankind’s interaction with whales, there have been a few close calls.
Because whale watching boats and swimmers essentially invade their home, these interactions have become a little scary for some people. However, the interactions don’t stop in the wild.
Whales have been bred or kept in captivity for years, and there have been various fatalities during this time. These fatalities have been well documented and investigated, but incidents in the wild have become somewhat of a gray area. There have been various incidents, but has anybody ever been swallowed by a whale? Well, one person has said that they have.
Back in time
To truly understand this story of a man potentially being swallowed by a whale, we need to go back in time. Yes, this story involves a man by the name of James Bartley, who was alive during the late 1800s.
In 1891, James and a crew of whalers had made their way to the Falkland Islands for a whaling expedition.
While they wanted to get as close as possible to the giant creatures, James had no idea that this expedition would change his life forever. That’s because, when a whale attacked their boat, James fell into the whale’s mouth and was swallowed in the process. The other crew members were oblivious to what had happened.
In fact, the whalers just assumed that their mate had fallen overboard and perished in the water.
With heavy hearts, they continued their whaling expedition, and just happened to catch the whale that had swallowed James.
As they hauled the giant whale up onto the deck, they realized that they would have to skin the creature to stop the sun from rotting the expensive and lucrative meat. It was a dirty and gruesome task, but things took a strange turn when they sliced into the whale and came face to face with James. He was unconscious but alive in the stomach of the whale.
Strange side effects
The crew couldn’t believe what they were seeing, and were amazed and confused to see James in the belly of the beast.
He had been in the whale for a whopping 36 hours, and he had suffered some strange side effects.
After being subjected to the stomach acid of the whale, James had not only gone blind, but the skin on both his face and his body had been bleached. However, he had supposedly survived the whole ordeal, and he lived a wholesome life for another 18 years before he passed away. While he never regained his sight, many people were in awe of his unbelievable story.
A false narrative?
Since James’s story made its way out into the open, many people haven’t been able to forget about it. After all, it’s not every day that someone gets swallowed by a whale and can then live to tell the tale!
It’s gone down in history, and it’s often been likened to stories such as Jonah and the Whale, Pinocchio, and even Finding Nemo.
However, there are others who have criticized the story and cast their doubts on the tale that has been told. They believe that the story has been sold as a false narrative and that James was not swallowed by a whale at all. So, what’s true and what’s not?
Questioning the damage
While many people have questioned various different aspects of the story involving James Bartley and the whale, the stomach acid has caused more problems than most.
In their opinion, James was extremely lucky to come out of his supposed scenario alive after being subjected to so much stomach acid.
The stomach acid within any human is pretty strong stuff, and it’s often considered to be corrosive and extremely harsh. Of course, if the stomach acid in a human is corrosive enough to dissolve metal – if you ever decide that you want to eat a key – then just imagine how much stronger it would be in a 173-ton whale.
Not the only thing
However, this isn’t the only thing James would have had to worry about if he really was swallowed by a whale.
While most people don’t intend to be eaten by a giant water dweller during their weekend swim in the ocean, those who have come close to these creatures will know that they have some pretty huge teeth.
Yes, like many other animals in the animal kingdom, there are many whales in this world that come complete with some of the biggest and sharpest teeth you may have ever seen in your life. It’s often hard to see them because they are largely submerged in water, but they are certainly there.
Some huge teeth
When you think of whales, you probably don’t think of teeth. That’s because many toothed whales come complete with teeth that are unlikes anything you have ever seen before.
In fact, some of them look like they are carrying giant chainsaws in their mouths!
Sperm whales are the longest toothed whales within the species, and these guys have got some impressive chompers on them. The average tooth of a sperm whale rocks in at 20 centimeters long, and that’s before you realize that they are razor sharp and come with around 40 to 50 brothers and sisters. With the ability to eat around a ton of squid per day, these whales need their sharp teeth.
The first problem
With this in mind, the first problem that anyone who was swallowed by a whale would encounter would be these impressive-yet-terrifying chompers.
While there’s no doubt about the fact that a human is pretty small in comparison to a whale that’s as large as a sperm whale, that doesn’t mean that their teeth won’t get in the way.
Unless you have the ability to prop open their jaws as they do in movies, it’s fair to say that your body would get in the way of the whales’ teeth and their chewing antics. In fact, these teeth would probably cause a few injuries that could be fatal.
The second problem
Even if you did manage to survive an encounter with the whale’s teeth, you would soon be facing another serious problem.
As you leave the sharp razors behind, anyone who is swallowed by a whale would then need to make their way from the whale’s mouth, down the esophagus, and into the dark depths below.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a pleasant journey, and it certainly wouldn’t be reminiscent of the water parks that humans love so much. Instead, this would be a journey that would leave a human fighting for their lives. Don’t believe us? Well, let’s just say that things might get a little dark.
Dark and slimy
As well as having to deal with the fact that the whales’ esophagus is dark and slimy, those who were swallowed by a whale would then have to cope with the fact that they couldn’t breathe.
The inside of a whale is completely devoid of oxygen and is instead full of increased levels of methane gas.
It wouldn’t take long for a human being to struggle in this environment, and they would soon be unable to breathe at all. Because of this, they would become unconscious within seconds. At least one good thing about that is the fact that you won’t have to come face to face with what the whale ate for lunch.
Of course, if you think back to the story of James Bartley, you’ll remember that the man on the whale expedition was found unconscious in the belly of the whale.
With this new information in mind, that totally makes sense.
A lack of oxygen to the human brain causes people to black out and fall unconscious, but what doesn’t make sense is the fact that James was unconscious but still breathing. Continued exposure in an environment as inhospitable as a whale’s body is enough to cause major fatalities, so how did James live to tell the tale? Does the story really add up?
The power of four
If you know anything about animals, you’ll know that mammals and other creatures within the animal kingdom constrict their throats to help the food go down.
Just as a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, a little constriction and some hydrochloric acid do the job for whales.
Because of this, anyone who is swallowed by a whale will struggle to cope with the constriction that occurs on the way down to the first of the whale’s stomachs. Yes, you heard that right. Whales are anomalies in the world of animals and giant creatures, as they are actually the proud owners of four separate stomachs!
A difficult journey
Despite the fact that most people would love to have four stomachs – especially to eat that extra serving of dessert – humans probably don’t want to get too close to any stomach inside of a whale.
That’s because these stomachs are full to the brim with hydrochloric acid, as this acid helps them digest their food and ultimately make use of the nourishment they gain from their breakfast, lunch, dinner, and all-round hunger.
As with anything that has the word “acid” in the name, hydrochloric acid is highly corrosive and doesn’t react well with human skin. Because of this, those swallowed by a whale would really start to feel the reaction.
Room for activities
After dropping down into the first whale stomach, those who are swallowed by a whale will be greeted with the animal’s largest stomach.
The good news is that anyone who finds themselves in the belly of the beast will be able to spread out and take advantage of the fact that there is so much room for activity.
If by some miracle you are still conscious for this experience, this would be your chance to pound on the walls of the stomach and hope that the whale will open up its mouth and regurgitate you. However, real life isn’t like the movies, and we don’t think that a tickle of the tonsils will do the trick.
Sharing the space
Of course, if you are swallowed by a whale and enter into this roomy first stomach, you might be a little annoyed to know that you don’t have this whole space to yourself.
In fact, you’ll have to share this space with some of the whales’ other dinner delights, including bioluminescent squid.
Sperm whales love to eat these creatures, and they are considered somewhat of a delicacy. While you might not want to float alongside these things in the whales’ stomach, at least you can rest easy knowing that you won’t be bored. After all, bioluminescent squid creates awesome light shows when they’re in the dark, and it’s incredibly beautiful.
Enjoying the process
If the idea of a quirky light show takes your fancy, we’re here to bring you back down to earth.
You won’t get to enjoy this process for too long, and it certainly won’t be on par with the Happily Ever After spectacular at Disneyland.
It takes a whale just 15 to 18 hours for a whale to digest its food from mouth to the other end, which means that anyone who is swallowed by a whale will soon be making their way from the first stomach to the second. This isn’t an easy process, and anything that makes this transition is once again sloshed around with even more stomach acid. This would quickly eat away at skin and organs.
A brutal attack
In fact, this acid would be a brutal attack on a human body – and it’s highly unlikely that anyone would be able to survive it.
Small amounts of acid have the power to eat away at the skin and corrode what’s underneath, but the volume of acid in a whale is something that cannot be understood.
That’s because they require a huge amount of stomach acid to break down their food, and this is what allows them to eat seals, crustaceans, octopus, large fish, and sometimes even other whales and sharks. With the ability to do this, a human should be no problem.
All about digestion
The digestion process of any living creature is pretty strange, and it’s fair to say that most people don’t want to think about it.
After all, the general process involves the food moving from one end of the body to the other, and it’s broken down into smaller pieces along the way.
A human isn’t the same as a small piece of potato you’ve cut into bite-size pieces – even for a whale – which means that whale may produce even more stomach acid to break down its food. Although it’s pretty gruesome to think about, the digestion process would eventually release a human’s bones after the skin and organs had been broken down.
No official reports
While this eventuality is pretty tough and scary to think of, it’s (thankfully) not something that most people have to think about on a regular basis.
That’s because most people don’t come across huge whales on a regular basis, and this drastically slashes their chances of ever being swallowed by one of these big beasts.
Even if you do live by the ocean and have spotted whales off the coast before, you’ll be happy to know that there has never been an official report of someone being eaten by a whale in the wild. So, you can swim in peace, but it’s best to keep an eye out…
All about the specifics
It’s important to be specific when it comes to incidents involving whales and humans. That’s because, although there has been no official report of someone being swallowed by a whale, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been fatalities.
Many swimmers and individuals have had close calls over the years, and some have even lost their lives in the process.
Yet, how does this happen? Whales have often bitten humans swimming in the water around them, which has caused devastating injuries, and there have even been those who have got tangled in a whales’ teeth and perished in the process. However, these incidents happen very rarely.
As if that wasn’t enough, it’s also difficult to put all whales together in one category. There are around 35 different species of whales across the globe, and each species comes with their own characteristics and their own dangers.
While there are many whales out there who are considered to be extremely dangerous because of their size and their teeth, there are others who aren’t quite as perilous.
In fact, there are many whales in this world that feature characteristics that would make it virtually impossible for it to be able to swallow a human. Because of this, we need to bear this in mind when talking about humans as whale food.
Just not possible
Most of the photos of whales that everyday people get to see involves larger whales such as the blue whale and the humpback whale. One of the lesser-known types of whale is the baleen whale – which was once called the whalebone whale.
These whales are absolutely huge, and you definitely wouldn’t be able to miss one if it was swimming past you.
However, there’s a high chance that you wouldn’t have to worry about it eating you because this type of whale relies on a diet of plankton. They’re pretty happy with the same meal every single day, and their esophagus is so small they wouldn’t even be able to fit a human down there.
Not their type
Of course, the baleen whale isn’t the only type of whale that doesn’t eat larger animals for their dinner.
Many of the whales in our oceans look mean and nasty, but they’re often docile creatures that spend their days opening up their mouths so that small animals and plankton can fuel their antics.
They would never be enticed to eat a human, as they aren’t the kind of whales to be enticed by seals or other larger animals. We’re sorry, but you’re just not their type. Of course, things would be a little different if you just happened to fall into their mouth – but the chances of that happening are pretty slim.
Hard to imagine
With this in mind, it’s hard to imagine that someone such as James Bartley would have been able to survive his ordeal.
While most people don’t like to think of someone being swallowed by a whale, the details of a whale’s digestion process just wouldn’t work in a humans’ favor.
James was supposedly in the giant creatures’ body for 36 hours, and during that time, he would have had to make his way from the mouth, down through the throat, and then into one or more stomachs before he was found. The timings just don’t really match up with the digestion of the average whale.
A few injuries
As if that wasn’t enough, it’s hard to believe that James walked away with so few injuries.
While there’s no doubt about the fact that his loss of sight and his bleached skin is something that we don’t wish upon anyone, how did he get away with it?
Those exposed to such strong acid for such a long period of time would normally be transformed into a bag of bones, but James managed to come away with all of his skin intact and just a few permanent injuries. This has been very hard for some people to accept, as it just seems to go against the general rule of science and the reaction of stomach acid when aiding digestion.
Logic and reasoning
Since James’ story came to light, many people have believed his tale.
However, experts have since used logic, reasoning, and science to come to their own conclusions – and they just can’t see how he would have survived the ordeal.
The whole process would just be too tough for the human body to cope with, and they even suggest that the person swallowed by the whale would perish in just a few minutes. Because of this, the general consensus is that nobody would survive being swallowed by a whale. Thankfully, nobody has ever had to try and survive in the past, and we hope that they will never have to.
Making it up
When James and his whaling crew made their way back to shore, they were overcome with remarks and exclaims from those who couldn’t believe what he had gone through.
However, modern readers have given the story some extra thought and have been able to do some digging.
Not only has no record of James Bartley been found on paperwork associated with the Star of the East – the whaling vessel Name supposedly sailed on – but the wife of one crew member even went on record to say it wasn’t true. In fact, she noted that the crew made the story up because they were bored and wanted to pass the time.
A big question
Of course, the story of James Bartley and his supposed whale encounter isn’t the only story we have heard or read that involves a whale and a human.
Over the years, the world of popular culture has been bombarded with something of that effect.
Those who have watched or read the likes of Jonah and the Whale, Pinocchio, or Finding Nemo have been able to interact with the idea of someone being swallowed by a whale. Because of this, it’s not surprising that so many people are asking themselves the big question. What really would happen if you were swallowed by a whale?
Long story short
While the jury is still out on whether James Bartley really was swallowed by a whale, there’s no doubt about the fact that the whole process would be extremely traumatizing – both physically and mentally.
Because of this, most experts suggest that the answer to the big question is that a human wouldn’t be able to survive the ordeal.
Being swallowed by a whale would subject a person to the inhospitable insides of a whale, and those insides don’t bode well for anyone who finds themselves in the presence of the world’s biggest animal. Because of this, you might want to avoid going anywhere near a whale when it’s yawning…