At what pressure is water released from a whale's blow hole?
July 15, 2013 12:19 PM   Subscribe

K, so I've found out through researching this that the water can come out at 200mph, but does anyone know how much pressure the water comes out at? (I've done a fair amount of research on it, but have only found the 200mph bit out. Was hoping I might get some help from the hive.)
posted by sockpim to Pets & Animals (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Do you know the approximate size of a blow hole? I haven't sat down to draw it out yet, but it feels like that'd be a necessary piece of info setting this up as a physics problem (the area over which a force is applied to find your pressure).
posted by BevosAngryGhost at 12:29 PM on July 15, 2013


According to Seaworld it is not water, but air. Lots of more interesting whale facts on that web site.

The visible spout of water that rises from a killer whale’s blowhole is not coming from the lungs, which (like ours) do not tolerate water.
Water that is on top of the blowhole when the powerful exhale begins is forced up with the exhaled respiratory gases.
Especially in cool air, a mist may form; it is water vapor condensing as the respiratory gases expand in the open air.

posted by JujuB at 12:33 PM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think there is an assumption here that the whale is shooting water out of its body. It actually isn't. The blowhole is a nostril/nose that has migrated to the top of the head. The whale is just blowing out CO2 and snot. The mist you see is the water that is on the surface when the whale blows.
posted by Tanizaki at 12:35 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it's not water. It's a terrible smelling mist.
posted by rtha at 12:46 PM on July 15, 2013


Hmm. In that case, does anyone know how much pressure the air is being blown out at?

BevosAngryGhost: I've heard that you could drop a fetus/newborn child down a blue whale's blow hole and it not get stuck.
posted by sockpim at 1:01 PM on July 15, 2013


I've heard that you could drop a fetus/newborn child down a blue whale's blow hole and it not get stuck.

This is what a blue whale's blowhole looks like. As you can see, it is basically a nose on top of the head. This estimate puts each nostril's length at 16-20 inches. While that might be as long as a human baby, they do not appear to be wide enough for an infant to cruise around like it is a really cool water slide.
posted by Tanizaki at 1:22 PM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Human lungs can build up a max pressure of about .5 psig static; no idea what transients can reach (e.g. cough/sneeze). Lung overpressure injuries have been reported at about 2 psid (rising 4 feet of water while holding breath). Don't know what that translates to for whales, though.
posted by disconnect at 6:50 PM on July 15, 2013


Completely talking out of my blowhole here, but since whales wouldn't be able to breathe pressurized air underwater (like humans with SCUBA equipment let's say), the chance that their lungs evolved to somehow withstand more pressure seems unlikely being that they wouldn't ever be in a position to overpressure their lungs.

Also, I doubt that whales have a way to highly pressurize their lungs at the surface although the blue whale can apparently hold 5,000 liters of air in its lungs. As far as the air pressure coming out of the lungs, I don't think the size of the hole really has anything to do with it. I know nothing about this stuff (blowhole talking again), but wouldn't you be able to figure it out just based on the idea that if the water is moving at 200mph, the air exhaled would have to be moving at the same speed?

I'm confusing myself, time to go read more about the amazing world of whales.

(Oh, one other thing, Tanizaki, in your picture it seems possible that a small infant could slide right down in there. Figure a blue whale could be 100 feet long and weigh nearly 200 tons. And thanks for that picture, I never knew it actually looked like a nose!)
posted by Literaryhero at 9:26 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


JujuB: om the lungs, which (like ours) do not tolerate water.
Water that is on top of the blowhole when the powerful exhale begins is forced up
Thanks, I've always wondered about that.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:35 PM on July 16, 2013


« Older Auto-Unlock Keyring Manager In Ubuntu 12.04 LTS   |   Why the arts matter. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.