Subject: Re: Whale blubber and decomposition

Leah R. Gerber (
Thu, 7 Aug 1997 12:01:46 -0700

At 10:53 PM 7/27/97 -0700, David Jones wrote:
>Dear Dr. Gerber,
>I have read in a book titled "The Whale" (1968, edited by Harrison=
>that if the body of a baleen whale is not processed within hours of being
>hoisted aboard a whaling ship the heat of decomposition will actually cook
>the flesh=97even in a cold climate.=20
>The reason given is that the blubber is such a good insulator that very
>little of the heat of decomposition can escape the festering body.
>Could this be true?
>Yours truly,
>David Jones

Dear David,

The book you refer to is correct.=20

If a whale is caught and is not processed within 24 hours, the body will
start to decompose from the inside out.  This is due to the fact that the
heat generated by the muscles is retained within the body because of the
efficiency of the blubber.  The surface to volume ratio present in large
whale species (large volume, small surface area) is also another factor in=
heat retention.  =20

Hope that helps!