swallowed by a whale

I was reading National Geographic and there was a photo of a school of herring where the photographer mentioned that he had become engulfed by the fish, but quickly swam away because humpback whales were nearby. It made me wonder what would happen if someone in that situation was accidentally swallowed by a whale. Could you escape? Would the gastric juices kill you before you got the chance?

The master speaks: Have any real-life Jonahs been swallowed by whales and lived?

The same story (with one or two more details) from truthorfiction.com.

One of the marine museums in Massachusetts or Connecticut has an article about a man being swallowed by a whale and suffering skin bleaching from gastric juices. I do not know whether that tale is from the same story, or not. (I last saw the museum article well over thirty years ago.)

The only whale that could conceivably swallow a human whole is a Sperm Whale. The other large whales (including the Humpback), which are baleen whales, feed mostly on plankton or relatively small fish and have throats much too small to accomodate a human.

If you were swallowed by a Sperm Whale, the process of ingestion would be nearly certain to kill you in and of itself. If you somehow managed to survive passage to the stomach, you would certainly die of suffocation within a few minutes, probably before the gastric juices had much chance to act. You certainly would not have any chance to escape. Even if the whale were killed immediately, you could not survive long enough to be extracted.

I came to post about James Bartley too.

Actually it is not uncommon for sperm whales to vomit. It is a natural part of their biology to vomit when their stomach contains undigestable substances. A part of their evolution in removing their stomachs of squid beaks and other stuff.
The whale vomit is also worth quite a bit as it is sought after by perfume manufacturers. While I agree the story about Bartley is highly unlikely, if someone were accidently swallowed by a whale the chances of them surviving is not zero.
Depending on how long it took the whale to regurgitate of course.

Neat story, but what the heck is enough air doing in the stomach of a sperm whale to sustain a person? Sperm whales usually don’t feed at the surface, and hardly ever drink carbonated soda. [sub]Yeah, I know that’s not going to let a person breathe, but work with me here[/sub]

I’m with Colibri - suffocation or drowning within a few minutes of being swallowed - if not before. :wink:

Perhaps not zero, but pretty damn close to it. You also have to consider the trauma of being swallowed and then vomited up again, which as I mentioned would likely be fatal in and of itself.

Regarding the potential hazard of being in a school of herring when a Humpback Whale is about, as mentioned in the OP, although a baleen whale such as a Humpback would not be able to swallow a human, it might be able to take one into its mouth. The human would then likely be crushed by the whale’s tongue as it expelled water through the baleen. I have never heard of this happening, however.

To me it sounds about as likely as a cow accidentally eating a baby crawling about in the grass. Even if the whale were to make with the giant huge mouth of herring death as pictured here I’m pretty sure it would notice the large foreign object in its mouth and eject it before trying to filter the mouthful. Otherwise, surely they’d regularly be damaging their mouths by getting bits of tree or sealions or whatever stuck in the baleen?

The throat of the blue whale, too, despite the enormity of everything else in its body, can take in nothing larger than a grapefruit*.

*According to the pub quiz I won on Monday. My post is my cite.

You may well be right. But being spit out by a whale isn’t going to be too good for your bodily integrity either.

That was a great video, thanks for the link… but I still think Colibri’s explanation sounds like the most realistic.

Yeah, I’d imagine a whale ‘ptooey’ would be pretty forceful, even if preferable to being pureed through the baleen.

I wonder how capable baleen whales are of dislodging foreign objects? With the amount of garbage being dumped into the oceans, how are they coping with e.g. plastic bags and so on clogging their filters?

What, even if you were wearing scuba gear? Surely if you managed to make it into the whale’s stomach with your breathing equipment still on and functioning, you could probably move around a bit. Maybe if you had a knife or some other tool you could irritate the stomach enough to cause the whale to vomit…?

Of course, if you were wearing scuba gear, that would marginally increase your chance of survival. Even so, if you escaped being killed by ingestion, and avoided having your breathing apparatus knocked off, I still wouldn’t bet on having that much freedom of movement. While a Sperm Whale’s stomach is big enough to accommodate a human, as far as I know it is a muscular organ, like most other mammalian stomachs. It may expand only enough to admit the ingested object. I would guess even if concious and able to breathe, you would still have a pretty hard time moving you arms around. And once peristalsis started it would not be very pleasant.