We've all seen Pinocchio finding Geppetto living inside a whale's stomach. Ben Shattuck from Slate wanted to know: is that even possible? Reportedly, no. If you fall into a whale's mouth, the only thing that's coming out of it are bits of your bones -- from its other orifice -- and I'm not talking about the spout.
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.
Still, you'd like to think it's possible. You want to believe in an animal that can fit you inside them -- that you might be consumed not piece-by-piece, mouthful-by-mouthful as sharks and bears would eat you, but wholly; to be encased as your full self, womb-like. You want to believe in big animals like you did when you were a kid. You want to be powerless as you are leaning into hurricane winds or with your eyes closed or looking into the ocean.
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