From: Kim Marshall (
Date: Wed Mar 22 2000 - 10:59:52 EST

>Question: I am trying to find out what makes whales float. I know it has
>something to do with their blubber. What does their blubber do to help
>them float?

Reply: Dear Chelsea,
Blubber plays a part in helping whales float because it is made up of fat.
Fat is less dense that salt water and anything that is less dense than salt
water will float, while things more dense than sea water will sink. Density
is measured in terms of specific gravity. Salt water has a specific gravity
of 1.02-1.03. Bones, scales, and shells are much more dense than the water,
with specific gravities of 2.0. Other tissues are less dense: the specific
gravity of cartilage is 1.1, of muscle, 1.05, and fat, wax, and oil,
0.8-0.9. Animals, like whales and elephant seals have ehough fats to keep
them from sinking. A blue whale is composed of approximately 18% blubber.
About 80% of that blubber is fat, while the other 20% is connective tissue
and blood vessels. This answer is a little complicated - I hope you can
understand it. Thank you for your question! Kim

Don't forget to look through WhaleNet's pages at
for more information on this subject.

Whale Conservation Institute/Ocean Alliance
191 Weston Road, Lincoln, MA
(781) 259-0423

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