Subject: Whale's breathing (fwd)

Michael Williamson (
Sat, 15 Feb 1997 16:45:36 -0500 (EST)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 15 Feb 1997 12:07:05 -0500 (EST)
From: Kim Marshall <kim@Whale.Org>
Subject: Re: Whale's breathing

Dear Rachel Anne,

Whales breath air at the surface of the  water by taking quick breaths
through their blowhole.  A flap of skin controlled by muscles opens the
blowhold when the whale breathes and closes when the whale goes underwater.
Whales can hold their breath from 7-30 minutes - Sperm whales for up 2
hrs!  They usually take about 1-2 breathes per minute while traveling at
the surface.  Humans take about 15-18 breathes per minute.  Each breath is
less than 1/2 a second but the whales and dolphins can absorb much more
oxygen into their systems then we can by storing it in their muscles.

Because they use force to get all the old air out, they exhale almost 90%
of their old air, humans only expell about 12-18% after each breath, there
is a blast of air that is warmed by the lungs.  When this moist, warm air
hits the outside air it becomes a vapor.  This is what you see when the
whale spouts, each whale spouts a different way, right whales have a
v-shaped spout, humpback whales have a bushy spout that goes up to 12 feet
high and fin whales have a long, thin spout that goes up to 18 ft. in the
I hope this helps you, if you need more information, let me know and I'll
find some articles to mail you.   Otherwise I'll assume that is is enough.

Thanks, Kim Marshall