[MARMAM] Baleen whale (humpback?) accidentally "swallowing" a boat

Klaus Barthelmess barthval at t-online.de
Wed May 16 02:12:21 PDT 2007

For my ongoing study on the cultural history of human-cetacean relations, to
be published in book form, I envision an chapter called "'Can whales do
that?' Fact and fiction in popular whale lore".

Recently I came across an old report of a baleen whale, perhaps a
launch-feeding humpback, accidentally "swallowing" a boat.
It is said to have occurred off Ireland on 28 November 1829 and is reported
in the Massachusetts Yeoman and Worcester Saturday Journal and Advertiser of
6 February 1830, page 4, and reads thus:

"A Boat's Crew Swallowed by a Whale. - A correspondent of the Dublin Morning
Register, under date of Benn Green, Danally, Nov. 30, says - "I have to
report a most awful and unparalleled event, which took place in Inver Bay on
Saturday last. ((Which would make it the 28 November 1829; KB)) Five men, in
a yawl, were in pursuit of a shoal of sprats, for bait, with hand loops,
when a whale following the shoal, with open jaws came in contact with the
yawl (broadside to.) Feeling the yawl, the monster closed its jaws, and
crushed it in pieces, with the exception of the two ends, in one of which
was a young lad, in the act of putting out his loop. He was the only one out
of five that escaped. One man was found crushed, and fastened to a piece of
the floating wreck. A bunch of hair, from the gills of the whale ((bristles
of baleen; KB)) fastened in a shiver of the wreck, confirms that the boat
was destroyed in the way described, and in the way which those on shore and
those in the boats agree in attesting.""

Well, is such an accident imaginable? I recall someone (Judy Whitehead?) at
a conference many years ago telling how a breaching humpback once landed on
her boat. But I'm wondering if anyone can confirm - or give reasons why to
dispute - accidents with baleen whales of the type described in the old news

Thanks and kindest regards

Klaus Barthelmess
Cologne, Germany

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