Subject: Whale death?

Mike Williamson (
Wed, 15 Jan 1997 02:58:31 +0000

Looking for a little piece of information to satisfy my own curiosity,
perhaps to be incorporated into a story-in-progress: any information on
what happens to whales (particularly, for the sake of the story, a
larger whale -- blue, humpback, etc.) when they die a "natural" death?

Find a suitable spot to beach themselves (and is "knowledge of impending
death" still thought to be a reason that this happens)?  Go belly-up,
drift around and wash up somewhere?  Sink?  Or just get eaten by other

Any information appreciated.

Alan Joyce

Most large whales sink when they die.  The exception being the more
buoyant right and bowhead whales.  Usually when a dead baleen whale
"beaches" it has been dead for some time.  The time being the length of
time that it takes to sink, and decompose enought to generate
decomposition gases sufficient to make it buoyant and refloat it.  In
some instances it might be partially eaten by sharks and fish and never
refloat at all.  Also, by the same taken,even if it does refloat it may
sink again due to decomposition asisted by wave action of predation by
other animals.

J. Michael Williamson
   Principal Investigator
   WhaleNet <>
   Associate Professor-Science
   Wheelock College, 200 The Riverway, Boston, MA 02215
voice: 617.734.5200, ext. 256
fax:    617.734.8666, or 508/468-0073