Why do Dead whale carcass found ashore explodes ?

Why do dead whale explode| bowhead whale | Oldest living mammal | Stop whale hunting 

There are around 90 species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises (or toothed whales) in the world which are subdivided into 19 Cetaceans which differ from each other greatly in appearance, distribution, and behaviour. 

Many times these giant wonders of nature make headlines of the news when a dead whale corpse is brought ashore by the ocean waves. People gather around in large numbers to see the biggest creatures ruling the ocean waters on the planet. 

While this may seem to be very exciting getting close to a whale body lying ashore taking photographs, climbing or touching its body but, this is very dangerous and can also, turn out to be fatal for the person doing so. But what harm does a dead whale can do to a person? 

In the recent past, there have been cases wherein these giant whale corpses exploded when it was being moved or displaced from the seashore. The intensity of the exploded corpse was so that it could easily cause serious harm to the people handling it or even kill a person in a close encounter. 

This explosion has been studied by many scientists worldwide and the real cause of this explosion amazed many around the globe. 

Why do dead whales explode?


Bloated dead whale carcass often floats on the ocean surface till the gases inside escape and the pressure is released but when these bloated whale carcasses are brought ashore by waves, the trapped gases inside the carcass make the dead whale explode. Putrefaction and fermentation are the main culprits for the explosion of a whale carcass. 

Putrefaction involves breaking the protein component in the animal tissue as a part of decomposition and in the process, several ‘stinky gases “ are released along with methane. These stingy gases are the real cause of the foul smell that comes from a decomposing animal carcass. 


Whale carcass brought ashore by waves 
Image Source-  Google | Image by - 

Fermentation on the other hand is the process in which different tissues of the body dry out releasing gases such as carbon dioxide in the process. All the gases when released are trapped inside the whale carcass as there is a thick layer of bubbler beneath the skin of whale which does not allow these gases to escape until the skin decays with time or an external force is applied to release the gas pressure. 

In the ocean water when a bloating whale carcass is floating, the pressure is often released by sharks and other predators that prey on a whale carcass. While when this bloated carcass is found ashore, with time the pressure of released gases inside increases to an extent that a sudden force from outside cab causes a huge explosion of the carcass. 

What causes a whale to die?

Whales usually have a long lifespan some even more than 200 years. Bowhead whales are the oldest living mammals on earth that found to live for 268 years. Because of their immense gigantic size, whales do not have many natural predators other than polar bears, sharks, and killer whales too. Old age, dehydration, collapsing under their own weight, or drowning in high tides can also be some other factors for whales to die. 


Rare sighting of a Bowhead Whale 
Image Source-  Google | Image by - 

However one of the major causes of the gradual decrease in the whale population is due to humans. Close to a thousand whales are hunted every year for their meat and body parts. Their blubber, cartilage, and oil extracted are used in health supplements and pharmaceuticals. Whale meat is a traditional food in some regions such as Japan and also used to manufacture pet food. 


Japanese Whaling Ship  
Image Source-  Google | Image by - common Wikimedia 

Moreover, human encroachment in the form of oil refineries, commercial ship waterways, and others are causing loss of whale habitat and their breeding grounds. Whale face severe injuries or even die by colliding into huge rotors of vessels. 

This encroachment needs to be stopped else many whale species facing the danger of extinction will not be found in the oceans anymore. 


Why do dead whale explode| bowhead whale | Oldest living mammal | Stop whale hunting