So we’re really excited about our episode “Eaten Alive!” since the possibility of whole, live consumption by a giant predator is truly the stuff of human nightmares. As we discuss in the episode, there’s also something beautiful about it. Be sure to check out the accompanying mini-gallery for a handful of cool images of such things as a sperm whale painting and Islamic Jonah.
But in this post I wanted to point out a couple of things. First of all, our two coolest sources on this were Mary Roach’s excellent new book “Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal” and “Swallowed by a whale — a true tale?” by Ben Shattuck. Plus a few other sources here and there, but those are the ones I recommend you seek out on your own.
I also wanted to share the wondrously gothic and grotesque photograph above. That’s Captain Edmund Gardner and you’ll notice his left hand is but a whale-mangled stump. Here’s why, from Shattuck’s article:
The famous Quaker captain Edmund Gardner’s entanglement with a whale paints the clearest picture of what might happen — he was photographed post-attack, his left hand, fingerless and gnarled, centered in the shot. Gardner and his crew were off the coast of Peru in 1839. They lowered for a sperm whale. Gardner, as captain, was the boat header. After the whale was harpooned, he switched places with the boat steerer to kill the whale with a lance. The whale turned on the boat, and bit the bow. An article in Our Flag – a mid-19th-century publication out of New Bedford — lightly describes the whale biting the bow as it might “the best part of an apple-tart in the munch of a hungry school-boy.” His crew retrieved him, put him in the bottom of the boat, and thought he was dead. But he croaked out that he wanted to go to a doctor in Peru, where he convalesced.
Again, read the rest of his article because it’s a wonderfully written piece. Oh, and let’s not forget the music we featured in the episode. You can buy the Decemberists’ “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” right here. Let’s enjoy an animated version:
About the author: Robert Lamb is a senior writer and podcaster at HowStuffWorks, where he co-hosts Stuff to Blow Your Mind with Julie Douglas. He has a love for monsters, an aversion to slugs and a hankering for electronic music.