Science in Christian Perspective



A Whale of a Tale:
Fundamentalist Fish Stories

Edward B. Davis*

Associate Professor of Science and History
Messiah College
Grantham, PA 17027

[From Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, 43:224-237 (1991), with minor editorial changes]   Response: Bergman
©1991by the American Scientific Affiliation


According to a persistent story, exactly one hundred years ago a sailor named James Bartley was swallowed by a sperm whale off the Falkland Islands. About thirty-six hours later his fellow sailors found him, unconscious but alive, inside the belly of the animal. What follows is the result of my attempt to uncover the real story, as well as the story of the story--how this whale of a tale found its way into the fundamentalist apologetic tradition, as well as a sizeable number of conservative biblical commentaries.

Who did swallow Jonah, who did swallow Jonah, who did swallow Jonah down? --from a children's song

A few years ago when a relative of my wife passed away, I was asked if I wanted to have a look at her library--an offer that no true scholar can ever refuse. I didn't expect to find anything really interesting. The departed had been a kind, gentle woman of deep Christian faith, a finer woman than many I have known, but not inclined to serious study, not even on matters of fundamental importance to her. Certainly I expected to find a few biblical commentaries, one or two books of popular theology, perhaps even a bit of local history scattered among the large number of tracts and polemical works about the sad state of affairs in modern America that I knew she must have had. A cursory glance at the pile of literature that now lay before me in some disarray only confirmed my assumption. There was nothing here to get excited about, and only very few things that gave me cause to hesitate before putting them back on the pile. But hesitate I did, in one case, long enough to open the faded brown paper cover, held together with masking tape, that advertised its contents as "addresses delivered at the Winona Lake Bible Conference" in 1934. Winona Echoes, it proudly called itself. Knowing that the list of speakers that summer had included for the first time the prominent anti-evolutionist Harry Rimmer, in whom I have a long standing interest, I began to turn the pages.

That was when they fell out--two old, folded, badly torn pieces of paper that had been placed once, for safe keeping, between the pages of a sermon on "Jonah and the Whale" by Harry Rimmer. Yes, Rimmer was here, and not just Jonah. Two more of his favorite subjects, "Noah's Ark and the Deluge," and "Modern Science and the Long Day of Joshua," followed in the wake of the whale. I was beginning to feel proud of myself. "A real find," I muttered to no one in particular as I put the volume down where it wouldn't be confused with those I had rejected. "Too bad there aren't any more like this one." Little did I know, as I bent over to pick up the two scraps of paper that had fallen onto the floor, that it was they, seemingly the least of my riches that day, that would ultimately prove to be the real treasure. Little did I know, as I placed the fragile collection of sermons on the shelf with the rest of my literature on creationism, that what I had overlooked in my excitement would take me on a fishing expedition to a small British seaport and, at least vicariously, to the South Atlantic and on to New Zealand in search of a whale.

I began to realize just what I had found about four years later. In the meantime I had finished my doctoral work on 17th century science and launched my career in college teaching. One day as I was preparing a lecture on anti-evolutionism in the period between Scopes and Henry Morris I pulled the old Winona volume off the shelf, whereupon the two enclosures again fell out. This time I looked at them more closely. One, when I had succeeded in unfolding it without adding to the several tears it already possessed, revealed itself as an article on "Jonah and the Whale" by Professor Albertus Pieters of Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, published in the Moody Bible Institute Monthly in September, 1930. In less than two pages the author considered whether it was in fact possible (it was) for a man to live inside the belly of a whale for three days. In the process he cited not only some accepted scientific authorities but also two other sources that related a very curious story of a modern Jonah that was repeated in the second enclosure, which was clearly a tract. "A SAILOR SWALLOWED BY A WHALE," the tract proclaimed in large letters above a poorly printed picture captioned, "A Sperm whale crushes a boat." The tract bore no date, but pronounced discoloration of the two pages in Winona Echoes between which it had been lodged indicated that it couldn't be much younger than the book. It carried the by-line of one Fred T. Fuge, whoever he was, but in fact quoted (apparently verbatim) at length from what Fuge identified as "the well known book, Can A Young Man Trust His Bible?--;By Arthur Cook, Missionary to Iceland." (I later learned that the correct name was Gook, not Cook.) Fuge began by stating categorically that "[t]he whole account has been sifted carefully by M. de Parville, editor of the famous Journal des DÈbats, whose name and reputation as a scientist are a sufficient answer to those who call the story of Jonah into question from a scientific standpoint." What follows is a remarkable story, a whale of a tale that is worth reproducing here in full:

The whaling ship Star of the East, was in the vicinity of the Falkland Islands, searching for whales, which were very scarce. One morning the lookout sighted a whale about three miles away on the starboard quarter. Two boats were manned. In a short time one of the boats was near enough to enable the harpooner to send a spear into the whale, which proved to be an exceedingly large one. With the shaft in his side, the animal sounded and then sped away, dragging the boat after him with terrible speed. He swam straight away about five miles, when he turned and came back almost directly towards the spot where he had been harpooned. The second boat waited for him, and when but a short distance from it he rose to the surface. As soon as his back showed above the surface of the water the harpooner in the second boat drove another spear into him. The pain apparently crazed the whale, for it threshed about fearfully, and it was feared that the boats would be swamped and the crews drowned. Finally the whale swam away, dragging the two boats after him. He went about three miles and sounded or sank, and his whereabouts could not be exactly told. The lines attached to the harpooners were slack, and the harpooners began slowly to draw them in and coil them in the tubes. As soon as they were tauten, the whale arose to the surface and beat about with its tail in the maddest fashion. The boats attempted to get beyond the reach of the animal, which was apparently in its death agonies, and one of them succeeded, but the other was less fortunate. The whale struck it with his nose and upset it. The men were thrown into the water, and before the crew of the other boat could pick them up one man drowned and James Bartley had disappeared. When the whale became quiet from exhaustion the waters were searched for Bartley, but [he] could not be found; and under the impression that he had been struck by the whale's tail and sunk to the bottom, the survivors rowed back to the ship. The whale was dead, and in a few hours the great body was lying by the ship's side, and the men ere busy with axes and spades cutting through the flesh to secure the fat. They worked all day and part of the night. They resumed operations the next forenoon, and were soon down to the stomach, which was to be hoisted to the deck. The workmen were startled while labouring to clear it and to fasten the chain about it to discover something doubled up in it that gave spasmodic signs of life. The vast pouch was hoisted to the deck and cut open, and inside was found the missing sailor, doubled up and unconscious. He was laid out on the deck and treated to a bath of sea-water, which soon revived him, but his mind was not clear, and he was placed in the captain's quarters, where he remained to [sic] weeks a raving lunatic. He was carefully treated by the captain and officers of the ship, and he finally began to get possession of his senses. At the end of the third week he had finally recovered from the shock, and resumed his duties.

At this point the account shifts from what might have been related by any member of the crew to what could only be told by Bartley himself. What follows is a gruesome description of what Bartley felt, heard, and thought as he slid down into the whale's stomach, where he discovered that he could still breath, but where he was overcome by the intense heat and the dread of his horrible, inevitable death.

During the brief sojourn in the whale's belly, Bartley's skin, where it was exposed to the action of the gastric juices, underwent a striking change. His face and hands were bleached to a deadly whiteness, and the skin was wrinkled giving the man the appearance of having been parboiled. Bartley affirms that he would probably have lived inside his house of flesh until he starved, for he lost his senses through fright and not from lack of air. He says that he remembers the sensation of being lifted into the air by the nose of the whale and of dropping into the water. Then there was a frightful rushing sound, which he believed to be the beating of the water by the whale's tail, then he was encompassed by a fearful darkness, and he felt himself slipping along a smooth passage of some sort that seemed to move and carry him forward. This sensation lasted but an instant, then he felt that he had more room. He felt about him, and his hands came in contact with a yielding slimy substance that seemed to shrink from his touch. It finally dawned upon him that he had been swallowed by a whale, and he was overcome by horror at the situation. He could breath, but the heat was terrible. It was not of a scorching, stifling nature, but it seemed to draw out his vitality. He became very weak, and grew sick at the stomach. He knew that there was no hope of escape from his strange prison. Death stared him in the face, and he tried to look at it bravely but the awful quiet, the fearful darkness, the horrible knowledge of his environments, and the terrible heat finally overcame him, and he must have fainted, for the next he remembered was being in the captain's cabin. Bartley is not a man of a timid nature, but he says that it was many weeks before he could pass a night without having his sleep disturbed with harrowing dreams of angry whales and the horrors of his fearful prison. The skin on the face and hands of Bartley has never recovered its natural appearance. It is yellow and wrinkled, and looks like old parchment. The health of the man does not seem to have been affected by his terrible experience. He is in splendid spirits, and apparently fully enjoys all the blessings of life that come his way. The whaling captains say that they never remember a parallel case to this before. They say that it frequently happens that men are swallowed by whales who become infuriated by pain of the harpoon and attack the boats, but they have never known a man to go through the ordeal that Bartley did and come out alive.

There the account ends. The rest of the tract is devoted to upholding the credibility of the biblical story of Jonah and Christ's reference to it in the Gospel of Matthew--a wholly predictable ending to a wholly remarkable story.

What was I to make of all this? Somehow it all sounded a bit familiar. I thought I recalled hearing something like it many years before, in an otherwise long forgotten sermon by someone whose name I would never be able to dredge up. But was the story true, in which case there ought to be reliable records to support it, or was it just a really good fish story? On a hunch, I thought I'd try checking a reliable source, the New York Times, just to see whether they might have picked up a story like this one, which was certainly news fit to print. But where to start? Fred Fuge's account failed to date the event in any way--an almost incredible omission that, on the face of it, would almost suffice to discredit the whole story. Fortunately the article by Pieters (the other piece of paper in the Winona volume) filled in that minor detail, giving the date as February 1891.

In the Times Index for that year I found quite a few entries about whales and whaling, but nothing even remotely like the Bartley story. Ditto for the next year, the one after that, and so on, until I got to the volume for 1896. And then, all of a sudden, there it was: "Whale; man swallowed by ... " With growing excitement I retrieved the relevant roll of microfilm, found the issue for Sunday, November 22, and found exactly what I was looking for on page 16, an account nearly identical to that in my little tract, prefaced by a caveat lector and attributing the original story to "The Mercury of South Yarmouth, England, in October 1891." A perusal of the other issues of the Times from the same roll turned up several other entries related to the Bartley story, from which I learned that a Harlem preacher had verified the existence of a barque of 734 tons called Star of the East, built in Glasgow, based in London, and commanded by a Captain J.B. Killam.

All this was good news, as it lent credence to this wild story that I was now starting to believe, but the best news came a bit later from the National Science Foundation. I had been awarded a grant to study the unpublished papers of Robert Boyle, housed at the library of the Royal Society in London. This was almost too good to be true. Not only would I get to do some serious archival work on Boyle, but I'd be spending the summer in London, just when it looked like my whale story was taking a British turn. As I packed my bags, I made sure to include copies of everything I had found thus far, hoping to do a little whaling in my spare time.

My first opportunity came when I discovered that the British Library was open three evenings each week, when the Royal Society was closed--fishing, anyone? Casting out my line, I quickly reeled in copies of the two sources of the Bartley story named in Pieters' article: an article by Ambrose John Wilson in the Princeton Theological Review from 1927, and the autobiography of the great British engineer Sir Francis Fox, Sixty-Three Years of Engineering, published in 1924. Wilson, a schoolmaster from South Africa who went on to become a Fellow of Queen's College, Cambridge, was also an Anglican rector who opposed evolution and deplored the growing secularization of British society. He saw in the Bartley story a ray of hope, accessible historical evidence to turn against the skepticism of the higher critics. His article is chock full of interesting information and useful references, including one to a completely different modern Jonah story from an 18th century Edgartown whaler. But his version of the Bartley story comes straight from Sir Francis, whom I suspect he knew; certainly both were leading members of the British evangelical sub-culture.

Born in the mid-19th century, Sir Francis was the son of Sir Charles Fox, whose firm had built the great exhibition hall of 1851 later known as the Crystal Palace. Sir Francis made his own considerable reputation by supervising projects of comparable renown: extending the London Underground, bridging Victoria Falls, tunneling the Alps, and shoring up several great cathedrals including St Paul's. His dream of laying a tunnel under the English Channel is only now being realized. He also served as a magistrate, using his position to help the poor, the sick, and even those who came before him charged with crimes. One particularly notable case involved a man who had burglarized Sir Francis' own house and was subsequently sentenced to three years' penal servitude. Sir Francis visited him, eased the man's conscience, and found him employment upon his discharge. Later he enlisted in the Army and was killed in France, but before leaving for the front he wrote to thank the engineer and his wife for their goodness to him. Sir Francis included this story in his autobiography, he said explicitly, so that other magistrates might be sensitive to similar opportunities to redeem fallen men. The same evangelical fervor was evident in his work with wounded soldiers, which led him to start a series of lectures and demonstrations on scientific subjects with an overwhelming apologetic bent that tends to trivialize both the science and the theology it is employed to serve--strikingly similar to the "Sermons from Science" series later associated with Irwin Moon and the Moody Institute of Science. Samples of what the soldiers encountered in these lectures can be found in a pamphlet, "Talks with our Wounded Heroes," printed by Sir Francis and distributed to thousands of men (and quoted in his autobiography). His treatment of the compound nature of white light is a typical example. The fact that a prism divides a ray of light from the sun into three primary colors is used to show "not only the possibility but the existence of One in Three and Three in One, the most perfect illustration in nature of the doctrine of the Trinity." Drawing out the analogy further, Sir Francis notes that "violet is the chemical and actinic ray, yellow is the lighting ray; red is the heating ray; and these correspond more or less closely to the functions of the three Persons of the Trinity."

Sir Francis' version of the Bartley story, which gets a whole chapter in his autobiography (it is worth noting in passing that the chapter concludes with an appeal for the placing of controls on the whaling industry, to prevent over fishing and extinction of "these splendid creatures"), was no less apologetic than his treatment of the primary colors: he used it just as Wilson later did, to defend the credibility of the Jonah story. As for the account itself, there was nothing in it not also in Fuge's tract, except for one important detail: upon the return of his vessel to England, Bartley was treated at a London hospital for the injury to his skin--which I might be able to verify by checking some hospital records, now that I had a pretty good idea when the incident was supposed to have taken place.

What interested me most was Fox's statement that the whole matter was "carefully investigated by two scientists--one of whom was the late M. de Parville, the scientific editor of the Journal des DÈbats of Paris, well known as a man of sound judgment and a careful writer." Although de Parville had died during the war, Fox added (he actually died in 1909), the man who succeeded him on the staff of the Journal had sent Fox an English translation that de Parville himself had used summarizing the results of his investigation and concluding with the statement (quoted by Fox) "that the account given by the captain and the crew of the English whaler is worthy of belief."

Who was de Parville, whom both Fuge and Fox cited as an authority on the Bartley story? And what had he learned from his investigation? Eventually I would reel in the answers, but first I went fishing after medical records that might survive pertaining to the treatment of Bartley's parboiled skin.

As a start, I paid a visit to the library of the Royal College of Surgeons, where I would be able to get some information about London hospitals in the 19th century, and where I could probably see a copy of "The Psychology of Animals Swallowed Alive," a brief monograph by Sir John Bland-Sutton mentioned in Wilson's article. I was soon ensconced in a corner with a presentation copy of the Bland-Sutton and all the histories of London hospitals I could possibly want. Alas, I caught nothing that day, not even a minnow, and never even sighted my whale. To be sure, Bland-Sutton did mention Jonah, but it was the biblical version (which he was inclined to doubt) and not Bartley's; he also reprinted the 18th century newspaper account of the Edgartown whaleman that Wilson picked up from him. Nor did any of the hospital histories mention treating such a case, which would surely have been unique. (Some time later, at the British Library, I searched through the Lancet and the British Medical Journal for 1891-95, again drawing a blank.) I debated with myself whether to try searching hospital records from 1891, but a few inquiries convinced me that, even if I could locate them, the task would be enormous, at least as frustrating as looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Still lacking solid confirmation for my whale story, I decided not to try.

As I was leaving the RCS library, however, a staff member asked me whether I had seen the review of the latest novel by Julian Barnes, A History of the World in 10-1/2 Chapters, that had appeared recently in one of the London papers. "No, I hadn't." "You should look it up," he said, "as it tells a story remarkably like the one you are chasing," and he repeated what he remembered. I was at once both excited and anxious--was someone else looking for my whale? Had he found it first? Had I been scooped? The public libraries were already closed for the day, so I hustled over to the book shops on Charing Cross Road, where I found a copy of Barnes' book. He printed a short excerpt from the story I already had, taken from a source he did not identify, with added details (not entirely correct, as it turned out) about Bartley and de Parville that I had not known. He also dated the incident as having happened on 25 August 1891, not in February as my other accounts all had it.

I soon learned that his story had to be wrong, at least with regard to the date, for I would locate a newspaper report about Bartley that was published on 22 August 1891, three days before Barnes dated the incident itself. The story of finding the story is worth relating at some length, for it typifies the joys and frustrations that I experienced throughout my research; furthermore, it was in doing this research that I uncovered what I believe to be the real story behind the Bartley story as it has come down to us.

I began with the only really "hard" evidence I thought I possessed: the information in the New York Times, allegedly taken from an issue of the South Yarmouth Mercury from October 1891. A bit of checking at the British Library soon showed that no such newspaper had ever existed. Indeed there is no place called South Yarmouth, at least not that I could find on the maps available to me. There is a little town called Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight, near Portsmouth on the southern coast, and a port called Great Yarmouth, on the coast about a hundred miles northeast of London in East Anglia. The latter had to be it, since a weekly called the Yarmouth Mercury had in fact been printed there in the 1890s. Armed with this information, I set aside a Saturday to visit the newspaper repository of the British Library in Colindale, near the former RAF base at Hendon, about 45 minutes north of central London on the Underground. I soon discovered to my chagrin that the newspaper I needed to see was being microfilmed and was therefore unavailable for study.

Convinced that this was the most important source I might find, I called several regional libraries outside of London in an effort to locate one that had a complete run of the Yarmouth Mercury for 1891. Fortunately, some libraries in East Anglia did. Not particularly anxious to go there myself, I wrote a letter to the Norwich County Library offering to send a ten-pound note to anyone who could send me a copy of the Bartley story as found in the Mercury.

After hearing nothing for a couple of weeks, I called again and spoke with someone in the local studies section who had seen my letter. "Oh yes," she said, "we found what you wanted, and posted it yesterday. Your whale is very well known here--the Gorleston whale, we call it. They keep a file on it at the Great Yarmouth branch." My heart took a jump--there was a real whale on the end of my line this time, and I wasn't going to let it get away. "This whale story," I asked, "where was it published?" "In the Yarmouth Independent, in June 1891," she answered. I asked her to repeat that: "You did say the Independent, not the Mercury, as I stated in my letter? And you did say June, not October? That's very interesting. Tell me about your whale." She proceeded to relate what then appeared to be a wholly different story from the one I had been chasing. "That's not my whale," I told her, and I reviewed the story I had outlined in my letter. There was mild laughter on the other end of the phone. "We all had a good chuckle when we read your story," she said, "but we've never heard such a tale. We found your whale, but there wasn't anyone inside it." "Maybe so," I replied, "but I'm coming up to see for myself."

The next day I boarded the train at Liverpool Street for the three hour journey to Great Yarmouth. It was a truly lovely day, unusually clear for England in mid-July, perfect weather for crossing the fen country. As I took in the sea birds and tidal marshes, and smelled the salt air, my mind was drawn back to my boyhood on the New Jersey shore, which this countryside so closely resembled. I was going to enjoy this, even if my whale wasn't waiting for me.

Upon my arrival at the library I went straight for the local studies section, where, to my delight, the staff were able very quickly to locate the file on the Gorleston whale and the microfilms I needed to search. I read the file first. It contained a series of newspaper clippings, some dating from the time of the event but others as recent as the early 1980s, that related the following story. In June 1891 a 30 foot rorqual whale came near the shore and ran up against a pier off the town of Gorleston, just south of Great Yarmouth. It was soon pursued by several boats and, after numerous attempts to harpoon it with fishing gear, it ran aground and was killed. Hung up by a rope around its tail, the whale was placed on exhibit for two days, drawing 2200 folk curious enough to pay an admission charge. Then the whale was dissected, producing a "disagreeable effluvium, which caused several of the more sensitive to leave the building."

Subsequently it was decided to milk the whale for all it was worth. The bones were ground for fertilizer, and a taxidermist was hired to stuff the skin, which was mounted on a timber dray and taken to the London Westminster Aquarium where it was put on display--all of this very much in the tradition of P.T. Barnum. After repeat engagements in Norwich and other East Anglian towns, it was returned to Great Yarmouth, where it remained for some time before disappearing into the veil of history--and, no doubt, going the way of all flesh as well.

Clearly this was not my whale--or was it? Two clippings, one written within days of the event, indicate that the Gorleston whale had inspired a number of humorous stories. Because no specific reference to the Bartley story was given, we may never know. I had to wonder:..was it possible that my whale was just the Gorleston whale in another guise? Turning my attention to the microfilms, at first my suspicions seemed to be confirmed. There was nothing about Bartley, or any other whale, in the October issues of the Mercury, and likewise for November and December. Going back to February, when Bartley was supposed to have been swallowed, I began to work my way forward. Reaching June, I found several articles about the Gorleston whale, confirming what I had already read, but no Bartley. I was almost convinced that the folks in Norwich had been correct, that I was on a foolish fishing expedition, when James Bartley popped out of the microfilm reader and into my eyes: "MAN IN A WHALE'S STOMACH, RESCUE OF A MODERN JONAH," said the headline. The story agreed in every particular with the little tract that had sparked my expedition. "I've found my whale!" I called out to the librarian as I rose from the table. She was flabbergasted, but the evidence spoke for itself. "They're going to be pretty surprised over in Norwich when they hear about this," she said. Darn right they will, I thought as I rode back to London that evening, full of my own success.

Having brought my research to what I considered a satisfactory conclusion for the time being, I packed up my fishing gear until I returned home to the States. Here, as time allowed, I pursued three smaller fish, two of whom grew before my eyes into specimens of considerable size as I chased them. First, I contacted officers of the modern descendent of the engineering firm founded by Sir Charles Fox, in an effort to locate any papers of Sir Francis that might be known to them. In particular, I wanted to find the actual information prepared by de Parville, if it still survived. I got not even a tug on my line--that one got away.

I had better results with the second fish, an inquiry to the Maritime History Archive at Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland, where the Lloyd's Register is now kept. Their records show three vessels under British registry bearing the name Star of the East that could have been in service in 1891: a 734 ton barque (mentioned above), and two other boats, each less than 20 tons, that could not possibly have been whalers. No log book for the barque was found, but the crew agreement showed that in February 1891 she was on route from London to Wellington via New York, a finding that impressed me since it was not inconsistent with the claim that she was off the Falkland Islands. However, I was advised by an archivist that, "whaling in the Falkland Islands did not commence until 1909, and I have not been able to locate a whaling vessel named Star of the East." A subsequent inquiry, as we shall see, proved even more enlightening.

The third fish I sought to land was, ironically, found in the volume that started all this, Winona Echoes. Thus far I had not paid much attention to Rimmer's sermon on Jonah, an exact reprint of a tract Rimmer printed in 1927 under the auspices of the one-man operation he called the Research Science Bureau. According to information given in the biography written by his wife (who subsequently destroyed his correspondence, to the dismay of historians), the sermon actually first appeared in the Bible study magazine Wonderful Word, edited by Leon Tucker and printed around 1925. As I have been unable to locate a copy of this version, I cannot say whether it differs at all from the tract. I very much doubt that it does, since it was characteristic of Rimmer to regurgitate his material. The very same sermon appeared once again, with one change I will mention below, in The Harmony of Science and Scripture. In any event the sermon includes a number of anecdotes involving several species of whales and sharks, drawn from his usual array of popular sources and alleged "experts," all arranged to support his conclusion that a whale shark meets all the qualifications to have been Jonah's home for a few days. But not one mention of Bartley can be found.

I was vexed--had Rimmer been uncharacteristically suspicious of the story, so much so that he didn't print it, or had he never heard it at all? Neither possibility seems likely, and yet Bartley isn't there, at least not by name. Rimmer does relate a story that seems like a distant echo of Bartley's tale, somehow the same but somehow different, creating a puzzle I would not solve for some months yet. It comes right near the end of his sermon, and it goes like this:

In the Literary Digest we noticed an account of an English sailor who was swallowed by a gigantic Rhinodon [i.e., a whale shark] in the English Channel. Briefly, the account stated that in the attempt to harpoon one of these monstrous sharks this sailor fell overboard, and before he could be picked up again, the shark, feeding, turned and engulfed him. His horrified friends made so much outcry that they frightened the fish, and it sounded and disappeared.

The entire trawler fleet put out to hunt the fish down, and forty-eight hours after the incident occurred the fish was sighted and slain with a one-pound deck-gun. The winches on the trawlers were too light to haul up the body of the mighty denizen of the deep, so they towed the carcass to the shore and opened it, to give the body of their friend Christian burial. But when the shark was opened, they were amazed to find the man unconscious but alive! He was rushed to the hospital, where he was found to be suffering from shock alone, and a few hours later was discharged as being physically fit. The account concluded by saying that the man was on exhibit in a London Museum at a shilling admittance fee; being advertised as "The Jonah of the Twentieth Century."

We corresponded with our representatives in London, and shortly afterward received corroboration of this incident, and last year had the privilege of meeting this man in person. His physical appearance was odd, in that his entire body was devoid of hair, and odd patches of a yellowish-brown color covered his entire skin.

Apart from certain resemblances to the Bartley story (which I will soon discuss), two things in this account should be noted now. First, Rimmer says explicitly that he met this man "last year." The identical claim is made in his tract printed in 1927 and again in The Harmony of Science and Scripture which was first printed in 1936. Obviously Rimmer had to have met the lucky sailor no later than 1926, and probably earlier than this since the sermon predates the 1927 tract. His failure to give a consistent date for this is wholly in keeping with the cavalier disregard for details that characterizes so much of Rimmer's writing on science, and that is utterly inappropriate to the nature of the subjects he treats. It is strange indeed that, having met this man (or so he claimed), Rimmer did not name him. A gloss found in my copy of Winona Echoes adds that this meeting took place in Canada, but I have been unable to verify this from any other source.

Second, Rimmer says in his tract and again in Winona Echoes that he found this story in the Literary Digest, a popular magazine from the late 19th and early 20th centuries that was rather like a cross between Reader's Digest and Newsweek--;if such a thing can be imagined! But in The Harmony, published later, Rimmer identified his source simply as "a magazine devoted to current affairs." Otherwise the account is absolutely identical to those printed earlier. Why did Rimmer change this, and only this, when his sermon was reprinted? He changed nothing else, not even his clearly erroneous repetition of the claim that he had met the sailor the year before. I cannot be sure, but I think he did it to correct a mistake. I have checked every issue of the Literary Digest available to me, including a virtually complete run from 1916 through 1927 (missing just a few issues before 1920), and have failed to find anything even remotely like the story Rimmer printed. An article on "Proving Jonah and the Whale" from September 1913 that briefly cites the work of Pierre Courbet (discussed below) is about sperm whales, not whale sharks. If Rimmer's story really isn't there, as I suspect, then he may have discovered this (perhaps someone else called it to his attention) and did what he could to correct himself. Apparently he no longer remembered the precise source--was it actually the sailor himself, whom Rimmer believed he had met?--;but he continued to maintain that the story had appeared in a magazine. The most likely candidate is an article called "Who Swallowed Jonah?" from the Independent and Weekly Review of 5 June 1920, the year in which Rimmer started his Research Science Bureau and effectively began his public defense of the Bible. The article relates the capture of a whale shark 45 feet long off Miami, and notes that certain unnamed scientists believed that the specimen was just an infant that, when full grown, would have been more than twice as long. Having observed that "the limited size of a whale's throat precludes the possibility of its swallowing a man," the author adds that the fish in question "could have lunched on twenty Jonahs without suffering the slightest pang of indigestion, and among the many persons who have seen the fish are clergymen who have formulated the theory that it was really a fish of this species that swallowed Jonah." And that, of course, is the view Rimmer defends.

What I did find while fishing in the Literary Digest, however, was another incarnation of Bartley's whale, in the issue for 4 April 1896, when Rimmer was not yet six years old. The bulk of the article is just an English translation of an account attributed to "M[onsieur]. P. Courbet in Cosmos (Paris, March 7)," which I read upon my next visit to London. Le Cosmos: Revue des sciences et de leurs applications was a conservative Catholic weekly, edited by the AbbÈ Moigno, that sought to maintain very strong connections between biblical statements and modern scientific theories, and Pierre Courbet was the author of several apologetic works including NÈcessitÈ scientifique de l'existence de Dieu. Courbet was led to write his article by news communicated at a session of the Academy of Sciences in late December 1895 (and covered briefly in Cosmos on 11 January), in which the Prince of Monaco had reported the capture of a sperm whale near the Azores. Just before it died, the animal vomited up several large cephalopods, including specimens of three new species. When the whale's stomach was opened, it contained the remains of more cephalopods, at least one of which was judged to have exceeded two meters in length.

After relating this information, Courbet jumped as if by invitation to the exegesis of Jonah. Although the church has never condemned an allegorical interpretation, Courbet observed, there is no longer any need to resort to it, since this discovery has proved that the sperm whale can easily swallow creatures larger than a man. More than this, it is even possible that a man could live for a day or so inside a whale's stomach. "If we are to believe the English papers," he continued, "there has recently occurred a striking demonstration of such a possibility."

What follows, of course, is the Bartley story, much as it is found in Fuge's tract and the Yarmouth Mercury, except that his treatment in a London hospital is mentioned, and the portion of the story that represents Bartley's experiences inside the whale is quoted (apparently directly) in the first person rather than related summarily in the third. The presence of this first person account indicated that there was probably another "original" version of the story that I had not yet located, but Courbet offered no specific clues about his sources so I could not follow it up.

However, I could follow up another hunch--I had a lot of hunches on this expedition--that the very existence of this article suggested. Suppose, I told myself, that one French whale begat another; suppose that Courbet begat de Parville, the man named by Fox and others as one of two eminent scientists who had investigated the Bartley story and had found it "worthy of belief." I had already verified that Henri de Parville was for much of the late 19th century the scientific editor of the Journal des dÈbats, politiques et littÈraires, a short daily published in Paris since the French revolution. But to look blindly through several years of the Journal for one or two columns about Bartley seemed equivalent to looking for the old needle in the haystack, so I hadn't bothered. Courbet's article was the clue I needed; 1896 might be the year.

Calling the crew to their whaling stations, I made steam for Colindale once again. There I quickly ascertained that de Parville's columns appeared religiously every Thursday, except in August, of course, a fact that greatly increased the efficiency of my search. Within minutes I sighted my whale, first in the column from 16 January and then once more on 12 March. The initial sighting was very brief, just a few words about Jonah in the middle of a short report on the Prince of Monaco's discovery that de Parville might have picked up from Cosmos. The second time I saw the whole whale. Following closely the article by Courbet (which he cited), de Parville summarized Bartley's adventures and then offered his own assessment of the story. As improbable as it might seem, he argued, the captain of the English whaler is "worthy of belief [digne de foi]." "I won't allow myself to deny the reality of the adventure," he continued with some hesitation, "indeed I would have been even more convinced if, in support of this story, one had provided certificates of authenticity" signed by appropriate authorities. "Never mind," he concluded, "after this entirely modern example, after the sperm whale of the prince of Monaco, I end up believing, this evening between ten and eleven o'clock, that Jonah really did come out of the whale alive!"

I was delighted to find this, for it had to be the basis for the English translation of de Parville's account that Sir Francis Fox received from France in 1919, a copy of which I had been unable to locate. The similarities in detail and in wording between Fox's account and de Parville's column of 12 March are too strong to allow any other conclusion. The hesitation found in the original, however, is significant by its absence; whether de Parville or Fox is responsible for this I cannot say without seeing the actual text sent to the Englishman. In any case Fox proceeds without faltering to quote de Parville's overall conclusion: "After this modern illustration I end by believing that Jonah really did come out from the whale alive as the Bible records." Precisely the same passage is quoted in Arthur Gook's little book (really no more than a collection of tracts), Can a Young Man Trust His Bible?, upon which Fuge relied and which I finally found after figuring out that Fuge misspelled the author's name. Neither Gook nor de Parville seems to have undertaken a direct inquiry into the matter; both relied on Courbet. Fox made a point of stating that "The incident was carefully investigated by two scientists," one of them de Parville and the other not named. Surely the other person Fox had in mind was Courbet. Neither of course was really a scientist--de Parville was one of the first science journalists, and Courbet was an apologist. And it isn't the least bit clear from anything I have found that either one made what could be described as a careful investigation of the incident.

I will state this more strongly: no one, repeat, no one, has given the story the kind of careful investigation it warrants if it is to be used as evidence for the reliability of scripture. Yet this is precisely what everyone citing the story assumes--that its authenticity has been established beyond a reasonable doubt, at least by de Parville if not also by others. A typical example comes from Ambrose John Wilson, whose account of the incident has probably been read more widely than any other. In a subsequent defense of his own purportedly thorough investigation, Wilson claimed that the episode had been "elaborately investigated by M. de Parville, accepted in the Journal des DÈbats, and earlier by the AbbÈ Moine [sic] in the scientific journal Kosmos," where Courbet's article had appeared. But Courbet did no more than cite an account in the English papers, and de Parville did no more than cite Courbet. Why hadn't anyone dug any deeper than this? I was beginning to harbor doubts about the authenticity of this whale of a tale.

Some time later, following up a hunch about Gook's book, I discovered yet another version of the Bartley story. The English edition of this collection of tracts, printed in 1930, contains the "orthodox" version that was picked up by Fuge, but without citing any source for the story. Having learned that Gook had published an Icelandic edition of his book in 1911, I located a copy (no mean feat!) and compared the two sections on Jonah. Sure enough, the Bartley story was there, but it didn't look identical; since I don't know Icelandic, I couldn't tell how close they really were. One difference was obvious: the older, Icelandic edition gave the date of the incident as 25 August 1891--the same date given by Julian Barnes--whereas the English edition had it "correct" as February 1891. More important, in the Icelandic edition Gook gave his source as the New York World from 12 April 1896. I soon found this article, complete with a wonderful line drawing of Bartley inside the whale's mouth that I cannot resist reproducing here. It proved to be identical to Gook's Icelandic version, but differed significantly from his English version which was almost identical to the account I had found in the Yarmouth paper from August 1891. It had to be the "second" version of the story that I had long sought! In addition to providing certain details about Bartley's age (about 35, as Barnes' account states) and physique that are not found in the Yarmouth version, the new version includes the first person account of his experiences inside the whale's belly that I had assumed must exist somewhere. But other details indicated to me that something was fishy here. The newly found version dated the incident from 25 August 1895 (not 1891), which couldn't possibly be correct; indeed Gook must have realized this and altered the date when he translated the article into Icelandic. It also stated that Bartley was found inside the stomach "peacefully reclining as in a bathtub" rather than doubled up. And it is claimed that "his skin still retains a peculiar bluish tinge, which seems indelible"; whereas the Yarmouth version states that "his face and hands were bleached to a deadly whiteness, and the skin was wrinkled, giving the man the appearance of having been parboiled." Perhaps a similar analysis caused Gook to replace this fishier version of the story with the "orthodox" Yarmouth version when the English edition of his book was printed about 1930.

In any case, this cast an unfavorable light on the whole story, and I soon had some hard evidence to support my suspicions. Upon my return from London the second time, I had obtained a valuable lead from my pastor. He didn't know very much about the story, but he provided me with one very important reference to a footnote in L.C. Allen's commentary on Jonah that cites an interesting correspondence printed in The Expository Times in 1906 and 1907. It began with a letter from a reader named Williams requesting more information about the Bartley story, which had been mentioned in the article (by E. K–nig) on Jonah in Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. K–nig replied, giving more details of the story as contained in "English newspapers, whose account was reproduced in the Canadian Aurora," and adding that "I myself should be interested if the source and the certainty of the above narrative could be established." (I have been unable to locate a copy of the Aurora.) Some time later Williams wrote again to report the results of inquiries he had made at Lloyds. He included transcriptions of two letters, one from Lloyds and one from Mrs. John Killam, wife of the captain of the Star of the East. The letter from Lloyds simply provided a few particulars about the vessel named in the Bartley story, including the fact that she left Auckland on 27 December 1890, bound for New York, where she arrived on 17 April 1891--which could indeed have placed her off the Falkland Islands in February. In her letter, however, Mrs. Kellam stated flatly that "[t]here is not one word of truth in the whale story. I was with my husband all the years he was in the Star of the East. There was never a man lost overboard while my husband was in her. The sailor has told a great sea yarn."

This was a very interesting revelation, to say the least. I wrote again to the Maritime Archives, asking for copies of any documents they might have, and received the crew agreement from the Star of the East for the voyage described above. She had been a barque of 733 net tonnage, owned by Sir Roderick Cameron of London and registered in that port. She left New York on 25 June 1890 bound for Wellington with a crew of thirteen officers and men under the command of captain John Killam of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia (not Great Yarmouth in East Anglia, where the Mercury was printed). The date of her arrival in Wellington is not recorded, but she left there in early November, stopping first in Lyttelton and then in Auckland, from whence she sailed to New York, arriving on 17 April. The agreement lists every member of the crew (including a few who signed on in Wellington and deserted just six days later in Lyttelton), and there is no James Bartley on the list, nor anyone of similar name, either for the entire voyage or any part thereof!

I realized then with finality that there simply was no whale at the end of my line, indeed that there never had been a whale, and that all of this was no more than a fish story, albeit a dandy. It had been good enough to fool apparently sophisticated folk like Henri de Parville, Sir Francis Fox, Julian Barnes, and the authors and editors of some highly respected biblical commentaries. But in the end, when traced back to the source, each reported sighting turned out to be just another chimera, just another version of the original spurious newspaper account. Precisely how the story began, and who started it, may never be known with any certainty at this juncture exactly a century later. Nevertheless a plausible scenario comes to mind--a scenario that actually does start with a whale, though not Bartley's.

It is, of course, the Gorleston whale that I have in mind, that unfortunate creature killed near Great Yarmouth in June 1891 and subsequently dragged about the country on exhibition. Suppose there was at that time an imaginative young man, let's call him James Bartley, who happened one day to see this whale and to read a newspaper account of its capture and disembowelment. As he reflected upon this monster from the deep his thoughts moved to consider the plight of Jonah, and an idea occurred to him--an idea that might enable him to share in the publicity generated by the Gorleston whale. Having been graced by nature with an unusual complexion, he might easily pass for Jonah himself, so much so that he becomes a circus side show in the spirit of the Gorleston whale, billing himself as "The Jonah of the Twentieth Century." He also spins a yarn, complete with a real ship that really was in the South Atlantic in February 1891 in case anyone should make inquiries, that is printed by at least one provincial newspaper just two months after the story of the Gorleston whale. Perhaps he even has a friend pose as the captain of this vessel (who is, conveniently enough, not named in the original accounts) to attest to those facts that a man who spent thirty hours inside a whale's belly could not have known about.

Never mind that the ship he chose wasn't a whaler, and that British whalers didn't fish off the Falklands in 1891. Only a suspicious person would ask those sorts of questions, and a suspicious person wouldn't believe the story anyway. Having told his fish story, Bartley could sit back and enjoy the bit of fame it brought him without any risk to his reputation (presuming that this would have concerned him)--;if pressed, he could always claim that he had done no more than invent an entertaining tale, exactly what Mrs. Kellam later said he did. But her denial did not become widely known, so Bartley could go on pretending to be Jonah for anyone who would listen, including a young preacher named Harry Rimmer.

Rimmer apparently heard a different version of the tale, perhaps because Bartley changed his story after Mrs. Kellam's denial. This time the animal was a whale shark slain by a deck gun from a trawler in the English Channel (recall that there was in fact a 16-ton British vessel also called "Star of the East," happily enough for Bartley), not a sperm whale harpooned by men from a whaling ship off the Falkland Islands. To be sure, these are not insignificant differences. But otherwise the stories are so much alike that I am convinced they represent variants of the same original fish story inspired by the Gorleston whale. The descriptions of the sailor's skin after the incident are remarkably similar, suggesting that the same man was being described. Both stories claim that the man was hospitalized. Both describe the hunt for an animal that had first swallowed a man and then gotten away. And in each story the man inside was found about a day later, alive but unconscious, and suffering from shock.

Rimmer's use of this fabulous tale bears more than a little resemblance to his use of another, equally spurious story that Arthur Gook also relates, that of the "discovery" of Joshua's missing day. (Gook says that he obtained this story from Sidney Collett, whose approach to science was strikingly similar to that of Rimmer; the existence of a direct influence of Collett, or of Gook, on Rimmer would not surprise me in the least though I know of no direct evidence for it.) As he did with Jonah and the whale, Rimmer printed his sermon on "Modern Science and the Long Day of Joshua" several times, first as a tract in the mid-1920s, then in Winona Echoes and again in The Harmony. In each place Rimmer concluded his defense of the historical veracity of the book of Joshua with a summary of a book (which he cites, but not by name) written by Charles A.L. Totten in 1890, entitled Joshua's Long Day and the Dial of Ahaz.

Totten was a West Point graduate who, after completing several assignments on active duty, taught military science and tactics at Yale University from 1889-92. The next year he resigned from the army to pursue full time his interest in certain biblical questions. An Adventist (though not, I think, of the Seventh-Day variety) and a Zionist who believed that the ten lost tribes of Israel became the Anglo-Saxons, Totten spent much of his time investigating a wonderful conglomerate of unusual beliefs such as spiritualism, Swedenborgianism, and the pyramid theories of Piazzi Smith (which he endorsed). In Joshua's Long Day he used a wholly absurd argument based on wild assumptions to "prove" that 23 hours and 20 minutes were lost out of time when the sun stood still for Joshua, and an additional 40 minutes were lost when the sundial went backwards for Hezekiah--a story resurrected in another guise by a NASA engineer named Harold Hill around 1970. (Astrophysicist turned biblical scholar Robert C. Newman and sociologist Tom McIver have written at some length on both of these episodes.) Both Rimmer and Gook appealed to this ridiculous story to show that the long day of Joshua had been established as a scientific "fact". Rimmer in addition embellishes his version with a story presumed to come from Totten (but not actually found there) of how Totten convinced an astronomer of the validity of his claim, whereupon the man embraced Christianity.

If there is no truth in the Bartley story itself, there is still much to be learned from the story of the story, from the uses made of it by Rimmer and others. Bartley becomes for the anxious apologist an almost heroic figure, living proof of the veracity of scripture against the onslaught of the scientists and the higher critics--the very people who, in Rimmer's opinion, had destroyed the faith of America's youth. "IT'S THE CRISIS HOUR IN SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES," reads an advertisement for Rimmer's tracts that must date from the 1930s. "Christians loyal to the Bible are everywhere faced with the problem of how to stem the tide of unbelief emanating from schools and colleges (yes, even churches) and sweeping off hundreds of young people ... Must we throw up our hands and say the Bible is a bunch of fables and the Christian faith a delusion after all?" Gook asked the same question: Can a Young Man Trust His Bible?

Rimmer and Gook wanted more than anything else to give people reasons to believe, to strengthen their faith in the gospel by strengthening their faith in the literal words of the Bible, to debunk the claims of atheistic scientists and apostate theologians. What better way to do this than to use scientific evidence itself as a weapon against the scoffers? This was the whole point of Rimmer's ministry, the reason why he published so many tracts and books on science, why he goaded so many science professors to debate him, and why he promised a reward to anyone who could prove that the Bible contains even one scientific error.

I want to emphasize that there was nothing unique about Rimmer's anxiety. The tendency to muster pseudo-scientific "facts" to defend the reliability of scripture against biblical critics was absolutely characteristic of much evangelical and fundamentalist literature of the period. This represents a significant change from the general state of affairs in the 19th century, when a number of highly respected Christian scholars had produced a substantial body of literature harmonizing solid, respectable science with the faith of the lay believer. Written in many cases by men with legitimate scientific expertise, these works had the positive purpose of forging a creative synthesis between the best theology and the best science of their day; they were not intended merely to defend a particular view of the Bible or to "prove" the Bible against skeptics. However there is no comparable body of literature from the first half of the present century. As Bernard Ramm lamented nearly forty years ago in the preface to The Christian View of Science and Scripture, "the noble tradition which was in ascendancy in the closing years of the nineteenth century has not been the major tradition in evangelicalism in the twentieth century. A narrow bibliolatry, the product not of faith but of fear, buried the noble tradition." Ramm's diagnosis was never more aptly applied than to men like Rimmer and Gook.

In their use of science to further apologetic goals, Rimmer, Gook and others stand revealed as practitioners of what Jerome R. Ravetz has recently called "folk science," the use of science to promote or provide the basis for one's personal belief system, whatever that may be. Professional scientists are no less prone than anyone else to the practice of folk science in this sense; Carl Sagan, Eric Chaisson, and Edward O. Wilson immediately come to mind. But if we confine the term to its literal meaning, there is a more obvious way in which Rimmer, Gook, and all the others who told fish stories were engaged in folk science. None was a professional scientist, the two closest being Fox, an engineer, and de Parville, a science journalist. Rimmer himself was an evangelist who attended four different colleges without attaining a degree (he was awarded honorary doctorates by three schools, including a Sc.D. by Wheaton College). His only sustained encounter with science was a brief stint at Hahnemann Medical College of the Pacific (now part of the University of California), where he could enroll without an undergraduate degree, in 1912.

But the practice of science in the modern world necessitates specialization. Indeed, the very process of professionalization is intended to produce highly specialized people possessing knowledge not readily available to those outside the boundaries of a given professional group, and institutional reward structures do little to encourage professionals to alleviate this by serving up popularized versions of professional knowledge for public consumption. The resulting gap--"chasm" might be a better word--between professionals and lay people is all too rarely bridged from the professional side, a state of affairs that (as Ramm noted in his own way) was even more acute with regard to evangelical scholarship in the first part of this century.

It is in this context that Rimmer's status as a practitioner of folk science is most evident. Rimmer was so popular precisely because he was willing where others were not to mediate science to non-scientific audiences, without threatening their faith. Coming from the amateur side of the chasm, Rimmer declared himself an expert in scientific matters and sought the trappings of the professional. He joined the American Association for the Advancement of Science and founded what he called the "Research Science Bureau." He challenged recognized professional scientists to debate him. He went on archaeological digs. And he published, preached, and spoke on scientific subjects. His skills as an orator only heightened his credibility with the audiences of students and amateurs he normally addressed, and when challenged by a professional, he had a knack for stumping him or making him look silly by citing a particular fact, often obscure, that seemed to fly in the face of the particular theory Rimmer scorned.

It was indeed "facts," not "theories," that Rimmer equated with "true science." The title of one of his books sums it up well: The Theory of Evolution and the Facts of Science, which he, of course, saw as diametrically opposed. A few good hard facts, a few fish stories from the newspapers, a missing day verified by a Yale professor: these were all Rimmer needed to debunk the foolish, godless theories of the scientists and the biblical critics. Never mind that his sources weren't exactly the most reliable, nor his conclusions the most careful. With William Jennings Bryan and George McCready Price, two contemporaries who shared his low opinion of evolution, Rimmer preached the gospel of an uncritical Baconianism to all who would listen, filling with folk science a void that professional Christian scientists were apparently unwilling to fill with the real thing.


A few weeks before this article was about to go to press I ran across a bit of Rimmeriana that I cannot resist including as a supplement to the tale just concluded, for it reveals better than anything else I have found the effect Rimmer had upon the faithful who heard him. As a bonus, it lends support to my view that Rimmer mixed the Bartley story with the account of the whale shark caught off Florida to form his own whale tale. And it contains information I have found nowhere else about Rimmer spending time on a whaler. (Who knows if it is true? At this point I'm a bit suspicious of Rimmer's basic honesty, let alone his judgment.) The account comes from an interview with Elizabeth Morrell Evans (born in 1899), a missionary to Taiwan who was also active in the New England Fellowship. The interview was conducted in 1985 by Robert Shuster of the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton, Illinois, and is printed with permission from the Center. What follows is a virtually complete transcript of that segment of the interview devoted to Miss Evans' memories of Rimmer's activities with the New England group; the ellipses indicate pauses on her part, not deletions. The fact that she heard Rimmer several times, and yet her memories center on the whale story is certainly significant.

EVANS: We had Dr. Rimmer quite a few times. We had him for a series of meetings and then we also sent him along from place to place for one day meetings. And he would always draw an excellent crowd. It ... it ... even at Park Street Church [in Boston] on week nights he would draw a very good, very good attendance. He was tremendous on bringing these difficult questions of the Bible in such a practical way that people could understand them. For instance, to talk on ... on Jonah and the whale, he went out in the whaling boat for a long time, for a month or two, and did whaling himself to study them. Because it said that the Mediterranean whale has too small a throat to swallow a man and live. He would crush the man. And he would find out the ... the facts about a thing. In the ... in the Literary Digest, I don't know if you ever remember that, but that was the informational magazine of my day. It told along in 1898 or somewhere right around there of a man who fell overboard from a whaling vessel and was swallowed by a whale, and, of course, they never ... they didn't know that he was swallowed by a whale, but they tried to rescue him and couldn't. And eventually they caught that whale that they had been trying to get when he went overboard and found him alive in the belly of that whale. All that was the matter was that he was so frightened that he got unconscious every so often and his skin was a little rough from the acid of the stomach, but otherwise perfectly all right. And they exhibited that whale in Wanamaker's store [in Philadelphia]. They had to take out panels. Well, in the city of Orlando I saw a whale that had just been caught that was plenty long enough to have swallowed a man and they had fish that they had taken out of his stomach that were ... that were bigger than a man, and the whole fish! Wasn't that something?

SHUSTER: Yes ...

EVANS: to put in a store of Orlando?

SHUSTER: A great illustration.

EVANS: Yes, and Dr. Rimmer had that sort of thing down so well that he could be so convincing.

SHUSTER: Well, I think that this might be a good time ... chance for us to leave here. We've covered a lot of territory.

EVANS: Yes.... Indeed we have, Miss Evans, indeed we have.


So many people helped with parts of this story by providing clues, copies of articles I needed, or timely suggestions that I cannot name them all. But I do want particularly to thank Lois Beck and Jennifer Davis, who checked my understanding of French sources; Catherine Clinton, for helping me navigate a fog of materials in the Great Yarmouth Library; Ed Larson, who went out of his way to help me find a certain whale; Bob Ives, whose lead about the correspondence in the Expository Times proved invaluable; Ruth Neiman, who labored tirelessly to obtain materials that most librarians have never even heard of; and most of all my family, who listened to my whale tales and let me go fishing pretty far from home.


Harry Rimmer, Charles Totten, anti-evolutionism, and folk science

DeRemer, Bernard R. "Harry Rimmer: Ardent Defender of Creation." Fundamentalist Journal 3 (December 1984), 44-46.
Gatewood, Willard B., Jr. "From Scopes to Creation Science: The Decline and Revival of the Evolution Controversy," The South Atlantic Quarterly 83 (1984), 363-83.
McIver, Tom. "Ancient Tales and Space-Age Myths of Creationist Evangelism." The Skeptical Inquirer 10 (1986), 258-76.
Newman, Robert C. "The Longest Day," United Evangelical (23 August 1974), 8-11.
Numbers, Ronald L. "The Creationists." In God and Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter between Christianity and Science, ed. David C. Lindberg and Numbers (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), pp. 391-423.
Ramm, Bernard. The Christian View of Science and Scripture. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954.
Ravetz, Jerome R. Scientific Knowledge and Its Social Problems. New York: Oxford University Press, 1971.
Rimmer, Charles Brandon. In the Fullness of Time. Berne, Indiana: The Berne Witness Company, 1948. [A biographical novel by his son.]
Rimmer, Harry. The Harmony of Science and Scripture. John Laurence Frost Memorial Library, Volume One. 4th edition. Berne, Indiana: The Berne Witness Company, 1937.
_______. "Modern Science and the Long Day of Joshua." Tract printed in 1927 by Glendale Printers, Glendale, California.
_______. "Modern Science, Jonah and the Whale." Tract printed in 1927 by Glendale Printers, Glendale, California.
Rimmer, Mignon Brandon. Fire Inside: The Harry Rimmer Story. Berne, Indiana: Publishers Printing House, 1968. [The biography by his wife.]
"Rimmer, Harry." Who Was Who, Vol. III, pp. 728-29.
"Rimmer, Harry." The National Cyclopedia of American Biography, Vol. 41, pp. 21-22.
[Rimmer, Harry.] Interview of Elizabeth Morrell Evans by Robert Shuster, August 26, 1985. Tape #T4, Collection 279, Missionary Sources Collection. Archives of the Billy Graham Center, Wheaton, Illinois. [The story printed in the epilogue.]
Totten, Charles A.L. Joshua's Long Day and the Dial of Ahaz. Haverhill, Massachusetts: Destiny Publishers, 1890.
"Totten, Charles Adiel Lewis." The National Cyclopedia of American Biography, Vol. 10, pp. 237-38.
Van Till, Howard J., Davis A. Young, and Clarence Menninga. Science Held Hostage: What's Wrong with Creation Science and Evolutionism. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1988.
Winona Echoes: Notable Addresses Delivered at the Fortieth Annual Winona Lake Bible Conference, Winona Lake, Indiana, 1934. Victor M. Hatfield, publisher.

The Bartley story and its various incarnations

Aalders, G.C. The Problem of the Book of Jonah. London: Tyndale Press, 1948. [Cites favorably Wilson's article]
Allen, L.C. The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah and Micah. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976. [Cites the correspondence from Expository Times]
"The Authenticity of Stories about Whales Swallowing Men." Encyclopedia Britannica Library Research Service, no date. [A helpful bibliography accompanies long excerpts from Wilson]
Barnes, Julian. A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters. New York: Knopf, 1989.
Boice, James Montgomery. The Minor Prophets. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983. [The section on Jonah in Volume I repeats the Bartley story, which the author gets from the Britannica research service]
Brief notices in the New York Times from 17 November 1896 (p. 4, cols 6-7), 25 November 1896 (p. 4, cols. 5-6), and 24 November 1896 (p. 8, col. 5).
Collett, Sidney. The Scripture of Truth. London: Partridge, 1905. [The source of Gook's information about the Totten story]
"Could the Whale have Swallowed Jonah?" Literary Digest 12 (4 April 1896), 681-82. [Essentially an English translation of Courbet's article]
Courbet, Pierre. "La baleine de Jonas et le cachalot de la 'Princesse-Alice'." Le cosmos: Revue des sciences et de leurs applications 23 n.s. (7 March 1896), 420-21.
Day, David. The Whale War. London: Routledge, 1987.
Fox, Sir Francis. Sixty-Three Years of Engineering, Scientific and Social Work. London: John Murray, 1924.
"Fox, Sir Francis." The Dictionary of National Biography, 1922-1930, pp. 313f.
[Fox, Sir Francis.] Obituary from Wimbledon Boro News, 14 January 1927.
[Fox, Sir Francis.] Obituaries from London Times, 8 and 11 January 1927.
Fuge, Fred T. "A Sailor Swallowed by a Whale." Undated tract published by Pilgrim Tract Society, Randleman, North Carolina.
Gook, Arthur C. Can a Young Man Trust His Bible? London: Pickering & Inglis, 1930. [The 1956 edition repeats the Bartley story but not that of Totten]
_______. Kan man stole paa sin Bibel? Akureyri, Iceland, 1911.
"Jonah and the Whale: True Story?" Literary Digest (27 June 1936), 25. [Briefly reviews article in same journal from 1896.]
Kastner, William. "Man in Whale." Natural History 5 (1947), 145. [A letter from a reader inquiring about the Bartley story]
K–nig, E. "Jonah." In A Dictionary of the Bible, ed. James Hastings (New York: Scribner's, 1901), Vol. II, pp. 744-52. [Relates the Bartley story on p. 750]
_______. "A Modern Jonah?" The Expository Times 17 (August 1905/6), 521. [Answers an inquiry from A. Lukyn Williams]
"Man in a Whale's Stomach." Yarmouth Mercury, 22 August 1891, p. 8. [The original or "orthodox" account]
"A Modern Jonah Proves his Story." New York World, 12 April 1896. [The "second account," containing the first person story]
Murphy, Robert Cushman. Letter to the editor. Natural History 5 (1947), 145 and 190. [The author, an eminent cetologist, categorically denies the possibility of the Bartley story]
Parville, Henri de. "Revue des sciences," in Journal des dÈbats, politiques et littÈraires from 16 January 1896 (pp. 1-2) and 12 March 1896 (pp. 1-2).
Pieters, Albertus. "Jonah and the Whale." Moody Bible Institute Monthly (September 1930), 12-13.
"Swallowed by a Whale." New York Times, 22 November 1896, p. 16, col. 4.
"Swallowing Jonah Neat." The Independent and Weekly Review 120 (17 March 1928), 244. [A review of Wilson's article]
Thomas, Roberta. Letters to the author about "Star of the East." 5 October 1989 and 4 July 1990. [From an archivist at the Maritime History Archive; includes a copy of the crew agreement for "Star of the East"]
Whitcomb, John C., Jr. "Contemporary Apologetics and the Christian Faith." Bibliotheca Sacra (1977), 99-106. [A leading contemporary creationist alludes in a footnote to Wilson's account of the Bartley story, which he describes as "well-documented"]
Williams, A. Lukyn. Letter to the editor. Expository Times 17 (June 1905/6), 429-30. [Opens the correspondence leading to Mrs. Killam's reply]
_______. Letter to the editor. Expository Times 18 (1906/7), 239. [Includes replies to his inquiries from Mrs. Killam and Lloyds]
Williams, W.C. "Jonah, Book of." In The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. Geoffrey W. Bromily et al. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), Vol. II, pp. 1112-16. [Endorses Wilson's account of the Bartley story; the original ISBE, however, is silent on the Bartley tale]
Wilson, Ambrose John. Highways and Hedges, Streets and Lanes. London: Williams & Norgate, 1929. [Autobiographical notes]
_______. "The Sign of the Prophet Jonah and Its Modern Confirmations." Princeton Theological Review 25 (1927), 630-42.
_______. "NOTES AND NOTICES: The Sign of the Prophet Jonah and Its Modern Confirmations." Princeton Theological Review 26 (1928), 618-21. [Wilson dismisses his critics, and all too neatly disposes of Mrs. Killam's testimony]
_______. "What Charles Darwin Really Found." Princeton Theological Review 26 (1928), 515-30. [An example of Wilson's anti-evolutionism]

The Gorleston whale

Articles in the Yarmouth Independent from 13 June 1891 and 20 June 1891.
File of relevant newspaper clippings from Great Yarmouth Library.

Miscellaneous shark and whale stories, including serious studies

Bland-Sutton, Sir John. "The Psychology of Animals Swallowed Alive." Lecture delivered at the Royal College of Surgeons, 5 June 1925. Printed as Essay V (pp. 48-62) in his On Faith and Science in Surgery. London: Heinemann, 1930.
Boulenger, E.G. Queer Fish. London: Partridge, 1925.
Budker, Paul. The Life of Sharks. New York: Columbia University Press, 1971.
_______. Whales and Whaling. New York: Macmillan, 1959. [Reviews the Bartley story and others]
Bullen, Frank T. The Cruise of the Cachalot. London: Smith, 1898.
Davis, Egerton Y., Jr. "Man in Whale." Natural History 6 (1947), 241. [Relates first hand story of a man swallowed (and killed) by a whale in the Arctic]
Ellis, Richard. The Book of Whales. New York: Knopf, 1980.
Macloskie, G. "How to Test the Story of Jonah." Bibliotheca Sacra 72 (1915), 334-38. [Assesses scientific facts about whales; by a friend of McCosh, Asa Gray, and G.F. Wright]
"Proving Jonah and the Whale." Literary Digest 47 (27 September 1913), 528-29. [Reviews an article in another journal that presents various possibilities]
Pusey, E.B. The Minor Prophets: A Commentary. 2 Vols. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1950. Orig. publ. 1860. [Relates several interesting shark stories]
Scheffer, Victor B. The Year of the Whale. New York: Scribner's, 1969. [Comments on Bartley and Egerton's story]
"Who Swallowed Jonah?" The Independent and Weekly Review 102 (5 June 1920), 331-32. [Suggests a whale shark]

*ASA Fellow