When Whales Go Boom: Why Do Whales Explode?

why do whales explode

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Whales are truly magnificent animals that have captivated humans for thousands of years with their enormous size, curiosity, and intelligence.

These gentle giants can be found roaming all seven oceans, but whilst awe-inspiring to encounter, they can also surprise us at times.

The phenomenon of exploding whales has puzzled scientists for many years, leading many to wonder why do whales explode in the first place.

Is it something to do with the whale’s biology? Maybe it only happens to specific whales? Or is it something else entirely?

Today, we’re going to go delve deeper into the bizarre world of whale explosions and explore the science behind this phenomenon.

So buckle up and grab the popcorn.

Why Do Whales Explode?

Without beating around the bush, the main reason why whales explode is due to a buildup of methane gas due to gut bacteria when the animal dies.

When a whale dies, bacteria in its gut begin to break down the carcass, which produces methane gas as a byproduct.

In living whales, the gas can be expelled through the whale’s mouth or rectum, but in dead whales, it gets trapped inside the body which leads to a massive build-up of pressure.

why do whales explode

In some cases, this build-up of pressure can become so much that it causes the dead whale to rupture, resulting in a violent explosion that can send whale guts, blubber, and other parts flying.


It’s a gross, brutal phenomenon that has been happening on beaches all over the world for years and can be dangerous and messy if the whale is close to human settlements.

Another way dead whales may explode is if humans touch them.

If curious people spot a dead whale, they may prod it or touch it, which can give result in the shock of their life.

The pressure built up can be very dangerous, so if you do happen to spot a dead whale on a beach, under no circumstances should you touch it.

Do All Dead Whales Explode?

No, not all dead whales explode, thankfully! There would be some very messy oceans and some gruesome beaches if they did.

Several factors influence whether a dead whale will explode or not, including the surrounding temperature, the cause of death, and the size of the whale.

Most dead whales will float to the bottom of the ocean and then be feasted upon by other animals such as sharks, crabs, and lobsters.

Whales that die of natural causes often don’t explode if their bodies are undisturbed as the bacteria in their guts don’t create enough pressure build-up.

If the whale dies in a cold climate, such as the Arctic, the decomposition process is much slower which reduces the rate at which gas is produced.

On the other hand, whales that from traumatic causes, such as vessel strikes or entanglement may experience high amounts of stress in their body which makes them more likely to explode.

It’s generally not common for whales to explode, but it does happen from time to time when the right set of circumstances has occurred.

What Happens To A Whale When It Dies?

Whales die every single day, and for the most part, they sink to the bottom of the ocean gracefully and become a plentiful food source for many other ocean critters.

This natural process is known as a “whale fall” and it provides a unique opportunity for the organisms in the ecosystem to feed.

In other cases, the whale carcass may wash up on shore where it can also become a food source for birds and other animals in the area.

A dead whale that has washed up on a beach may be towed back out to sea away from shipping lanes so that it can decompose naturally.

Researchers also sometimes use the opportunity to study the whale and learn more about its biology and behavior.

In rare cases, the whale will explode, but oftentimes it’ll decompose naturally at the bottom of the ocean or be towed back out to decompose naturally.

What Happens If You Touch A Dead Whale?

If you do happen to come across a dead whale, it’s not advised to touch it or even get too close to it as it could pose a number of threats.

Firstly, there’s the threat of explosion, which could cause you serious harm and leave you dripping in nasty whale guts

There’s also the fact that whales can be covered in bacteria and other microorganisms that can cause infections or diseases.

Therefore, touching a whale without the correct protective equipment could leave you seriously ill.

It’s also worth noting that there may be legal implications to touching dead whales in your country, as in many places, it is illegal to touch, approach, or interfere with a dead whale.

The best course of action if you do come across a dead whale is to contact the local authorities and advise them of the situation.

They will then advise you on how to safely and legally proceed and can then contact the relevant departments and determine what to do with the dead whale.

Can A Whale Explosion Kill You?

Yes, it’s certainly possible for a whale explosion to kill a person, especially if the whale is that of a larger species such as a blue or fin whale.

This is why it’s extremely important not to get too close to a dead whale and certainly never touch it.

Whilst the chances of this is very unlikely, it is possible that if the person is standing too close to the whale they could be injured by flying debris or exposed to toxic gases.

why do whales explode

The risk of being harmed by a whale explosion is low, especially if you’re a member of the public.

These events are usually handled by professionals who wear appropriate protective gear and know how to deal with the whale carcass safely.

Wrapping Up

In closing, whales explode due to a build-up of methane gas that is caused by bacteria in their gut when they die.

Not every whale explodes, but the ones that do can be highly dangerous and leave the surrounding area in a very messy state.

Most fall to the bottom of the ocean and become a food resource for fish, crabs, sharks, and other marine animals.

If you do happen to come across a dead whale, do not go near it and please do not touch it.

It can be very dangerous and illegal to interfere with a dead whale, so keep your distance and remain safe.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and learn more about the fascinating whale explosion phenomenon.

Catch you in the next one!