Here he juxtaposes accounts that invalidate each other, imitating the cetological
excerpts at the beginning of Moby-Dick where Melville's sub-sub-librarian futilely tries to grasp the transcendent reality of the whale through moldy old texts.
Lists are also, of course, a quintessentially American fictional technique--Moby-Dick's cetological
catalogs are only the most striking example.
Moreover, less than two months before beginning his cetological
epic, Melville may have seen paired representations of Jonah and Jesus in the Cologne cathedral that he toured at length.