whale sizes and speeds

From: Merel Dalebout (merel_dalebout@hotmail.com)
Date: Sun Jan 30 2000 - 00:54:45 EST

>Can you tell me where I might be able to find out the sizes of
>Blue, Grey, and Killer whales. I can find the length but I need to >know
>the length from shoulder to shoulder....(width) and how high >(tall) a
>whale is. We are trying to find out the "area" of whales. I >also need to
>know the speed of a gray whale. I would appreciate any >other links that
>you might be able to give me to get information about whales.

Dear Nicholas,

Thank you for your question. I have done some searching and while I have
found published figures for the area covered by a whales skin (I will
include these at the end in case you prefer to work this out yourself),
there seems to be little information on other dimensions apart from length
and weight. We usually take the sort of measurements you are looking for
from the stranded whales on New Zealand's coasts for our records, but
unfortunately this data is missing for the few killer whales and blue whales
we have had over the last few years, and we don't get any gray whales down

I did a search of the ASK archives to see if anyone else had asked a similar
question and found a reply from Courtney Stirling Casey about humpback whale
dimensions. Not one of the species you are looking at, I know, but perhaps
you could use these measurements as a starting point (she includes height
and breadth) and scale up or down accordingly by length etc. This
information can be found at:


Alternatively, I have some other measurements that might allow you to
calculate back to the area of whales. Killer whales (Orcinus orca) length:
male 6.7  7m , female 5.5- 6.5 m. Weight: males 4000  5000 kg, females
2500  3000 kg.
Gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) male 11.1- 14.3 m, female 11.7  15.2 m,
weight: approx 16 tonnes for males, 30-35 tonnes for females.
Blue whales; length approx 24-28 m (slightly larger in females and in the
southern hemisphere), weight approx 150 tonnes
Other general whale links that you might want to check out to see if they
carry the info you are looking for can be found at:


As to the speed of a Gray whale, these animals appear to be relatively slow
swimmers, with a maximum speed of approximately 6.5 knots recorded off the
Californian coast.

I hope some of this information helps. Good luck!


Publised figures for the area" of whales are below (from Slijper, 1979)

Surface areas of 12.4 and 14.5 square feet have been measured in porpoises
15.2 square feet in a common dolphin
143 and 146 square yards in fin whales and 223 yards in blue whales
The skin of a blue whale would therefore cover a tennis court, but it is
relatively small compared to the animals bluk. If an elephant whose skin
has an area of about 41.8 square yards were scaled up in sized to be equal
in mass to a fin whale, its skin surface area, rising in proportion, would
cover an area of 480 square yards. The comparatively smaller area of
cetacean skin surface, due largely to streamlining, has a considerable
effect in minimizing hear losses.

Merel Dalebout
PhD student
School of Biological Sciences
Thomas Building, L2
University of Auckland.
Private Bag 92019
New Zealand
Ph: 64-9-373-7599 x4588
Fax: 64-9-373-7417
E-mail: "Merel_Dalebout@hotmail.com"
      or "m.dalebout@auckland.ac.nz"

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