Why Does a Whale Spout?
Whales spout “fountains” of steam, which are formed by their breath. Whales breathe through blowholes on the top of their heads. After breathing, a whale can stay underwater for almost an hour. While underwater, the whale’s body warms and moistens the air inside its lungs.
When the whale comes back to the surface to breathe, it blows the stale air out the blowhole and takes in fresh air. The whale empties its lungs with such force, the air travels a great distances – 10, 20, even 40 feet.
Since its nose is on the top of its head, the air goes straight up. When the whale’s hot breath hits the cold outside air, it condenses into a spout of steam, similar to the steam our breath forms on a cold day.
So the spout “fountains” of steam you see is a stream of warm air exhaled by the whale lungs. Some whale watch guides can tell you the kind of whale that has just come to the surface, even before they see the animal, based on the height and shape of their spout.