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James Bartley: The Modern Jonah

        In 1891, American newspapers were abuzz with the story of a singular event that was claimed to have happened in February of that year; the earliest the story seems to have hit the papers is in July, after the sailing vessal Star of the East docked at New London, Connecticut, completing a two and a half year trip. A statement of a remarkable nature was presented by a thirty-eight year old sailor aboard the ship by the name of James Bartley, which was vouched for by the captain and crew.

        In February 1891, the Star of the East was near the Falkland Islands off South America, when the lookout sighted a large whale. Two longboats were dropped and the hunt was on. Two harpoons, one from each longboat, were sunk into the whale, which fought hard. The whale dived; the harpooners started to pull the slack line back into their boats, when the whale re-surfaced and started to beat wildly with its tail. One of the longboats managed to get away, but the other was struck by the animal's nose and tipped over... by the time the second longboat could perform a rescue, one man had drowned and one was missing and presumed drowned.

        Within a few hours the dead whale was pulled alongside the Star of the East, and the crew was busy cutting it up and retreiving the fat. The job took up the rest of the day, and a good part of the night, and then work resumed about noon the next day. It was on the second day that something strange was discovered; as the stomach was freed and brought to the deck for rendering, it was seen that something bunched up within it was showing spasmodic signs of life. When the stomach was cut open, they discovered the missing sailor -- James Bartley -- curled up and still alive, though just barely, thirty-six hours after he went missing!

        He was laid out on the deck and splashed with sea water; the whale's gastric juices had bleached Bartley's face and hands to a deathly white and wrinkled them. For two weeks he was kept in the captain's cabin; physically, he recovered fine... but mentally he was unstable. By the third week, Bartley had fully recovered, and had resumed his duties.

        After he recovered his senses, Bartley told how he remembered being thrown from the boat and into the water, where he was engulfed by darkness and felt himself slipping along a smooth passage that seemed to move and carry him foreward. He came to an area with more room in it, and was able to reach around. Upon feeling a yielding, slimy substance as the walls, he realized he had been swallowed. There was plenty of air, but it was terribly hot in the stomach and this drained his energy; that and the horror of his eventual fate caused him to lose his mind and pass out. The next thing he was reasonably sure of was waking in the captain's cabin.