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Deep Sea Fish Exploding at Surface

  1. Aug 7, 2009 #1
    An interesting topic:

    The gas-filled swim bladder of deep sea fish is under so much pressure in the deep sea that when brought to the surface too rapidly, and therefore relieving the enormous pressure, it explodes. Maybe not an actual explosion, but it swells up to enormous sizes and can appear as a huge balloon protruding from its mouth. Some people say that parts of deep sea fish actually do explode when brought to the surface, does anybody know of any research/sources about this?

    Just thought this could spark a nice conversation ;)
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 7, 2009 #2
    Hi there,

    Why do you need to have the results of research. It seems to me to be pretty logical. Marine life that lives in very deep sea have to sustaine incredible pressure. They would react the same way as us, if we would be put in complete vacuum.

  4. Aug 7, 2009 #3

    jim mcnamara

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    fatra - no.

    Are you expecting humans to have bulging eyes, etc., because they are in a complete vacuum? That is only in the movies. There was a NASA accident back in the sixties.
    A volunteer was inside a vacuum chamber that created conditions similar to space. The "space suit" he was testing failed. The faceplate cracked, I think. He was exposed to full vacuum for about 25 seconds. He did not explode, ooze, or ballistically vomit blood. He survived.

    If what you said were true, think of the converse - huge pressures on the outside should crush humans like you can and empty aluminum soda can. Divers routinely go to depths where external pressures are 500 kPa @40m (130ft) down. That is five atmospheres pressure. In a vacuum, the pressure differential from inside our lungs to the nothing outside is 100kPa or one atmosphere.

    You can google for the film of the accident - I can't get a link to streaming media where I am.
  5. Aug 7, 2009 #4


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    Just to expand on what jim said
    If you are in vacuum there is only one atmosphere difference between the inside and outside of your body - a mere 15psi.
    If you pull a fish up from the ocean floor at 3000m it has 300 atmosphere of pressure internally and now only has 1 atmosphere outside - 4500psi, or 1.5x the maximum pressure of a steel gas cyclinder.

    There have been people killed when hydrobaric chambers have failed with people at 30-40msw pressure. Although they don't explode the sudden drop in pressure creates gas bubbles in your blood stream, if the pressure drop is big enough and fast enough these can be rapidly fatal.
  6. Aug 7, 2009 #5

    Ivan Seeking

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    Back when I was a kid, when we went deep-sea fishing, if the tuna weren't running, we would often catch rock cod [very deep fish]. They came out of the water with their gut [or something] sticking out of their mouth.

    Wow, I haven't thought about this in years! When we would catch the cod, they would fight about half way up but then just floated the rest of the way up. By the time they got to the surface they were pretty much dead.
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2009
  7. Aug 7, 2009 #6
  8. Aug 13, 2009 #7
    If its from a higher preassure, a person can literally explode. The Byford Dolphin accident is a pretty gory example of this, where the preassure dropped from 9 atm to 1 atm almost instantaneously.

    Best line of the article;
    "All of his thoracic and abdominal organs, and even his thoracic spine were ejected, as were all of his limbs."

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