Here the reference is vernacular to American whaling, and shipboard life in general, rather than directly to the biblical story. Sailors prone to reading auguries and portents (and this is many of them), are always on the lookout for a Jonah among the crew, a sailor who, for some unknown, perhaps unknowable reason, brings destruction, chaos, and loss with them as a livid brand upon their very soul.

The player with the worst luck is branded Jonah. But worry not and take heart—though the hand of fate is swift and terrible, it may just as easily bring you fair weather and easy whales on your next voyage.