In 1891, a sensational story appeared in the St. Louis Globe Democrat of Saint Louis, Missouri. According to the news report, a young sailor named James Bartley got swallowed by a sperm whale, and when the whale was killed the following day and his belly cut open, out popped Bartley, blind and scathed by the corrosive gastric juice, but otherwise alive. It was such a fascinating tale that several newspapers repeated it and the story became quite popular.
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Jonah being swallowed by a whale. Oil painting by Pieter Lastman (1583–1633)