When transporting the two whales and seawater into the tank in the Star Trek movie The Voyage Home, what happened to the air in the tank? I've read the question and answers about regular transportation. One suggestion is that during the time it takes for rematerialization, the air is pushed aside. But the whales and water are transported into a sealed tank. Or should we presume that the top of the tank is open? Even then, that's a lot of air to displace. Whoosh!

And what about water splashing out when the whales swim around? Then there's the problem of making sure that the water is oxygenated enough. Separate questions, I know, but still . . .

  • It is possible the surrounding air was just pressurized when the whales and water entered the space. Mar 8, 2016 at 22:39
  • Possible, but that's a significant increase in pressure. It's got to be a tripling or more. Even if we agree that Scotty would have designed the tank to withstand that much psi increase, would the whales be able to adapt to that when they surfaced to breath? Mar 8, 2016 at 22:44
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    @NKCampbell - That appears to be fan-art in the style of an Okudagram, rather than an actual Okudagram.
    – Valorum
    Mar 8, 2016 at 22:50
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    Ah, fan art. Well, at least someone was thinking about the air. Mar 8, 2016 at 22:51
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    @rosesunhill - I accept that and have withdrawn my dupe vote. I've also found a good answer to both parts of the question.
    – Valorum
    Mar 8, 2016 at 23:02

2 Answers 2


We know from the film itself that the tank had sufficient volume to contain 400 tonnes of water as well as two large whales. What's not immediately obvious is that the tank is only half full, at least according to the original film script.

218 EXT. OCEAN - UNDERWATER - ILM ELEMENTS George and Gracie, moving slowly through the deep, begin to BEAM OUT...

219 CARGO BAY - FAVORING THE TANK - ILM ELEMENTS As Scotty watches in awe, the whales, and half a tank of sea water, BEAM IN.

On Scotty, open-mouthed.

This neatly deals with two elements; the existing air in the tank would have merely doubled in pressure (something that a simple bleed-valve could deal with in seconds) and this also explains what the whales were breathing in their tank.

  • I like that. It reduces the problem with the pressure nicely. Mar 8, 2016 at 23:04
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    It HAS to be have empty or so - whales are air breathers, not gilled. Mar 9, 2016 at 2:31
  • @blackbeagle - Unless they've somehow super-oxygenated the water.
    – Valorum
    Mar 9, 2016 at 6:59
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    @Richard still, whales cannot extract oxygen from water any better than you can. They could get massive injections of triox, though.
    – Davidmh
    Mar 9, 2016 at 8:57
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    Speculation: it would also be easy enough to have reduced the air pressure in the tank to whatever degree is required in anticipation.
    – whybird
    Mar 9, 2016 at 9:20

I'd say that the problem isn't just the preassure in the tank, but really more generally what happens when something suddenly disappears.

This would normally cause an implosion, where the air around rushes in to fill the hole, causing a rather loud bang. Since this doesn't happen in normal transporter use, I'd presume that the transportation is 2-way, that is, when something is "beamed up", the corresponding amount of air is "beamed down", nicely equalizing pressures in both locations.

In this case, 200 cubic meters of air was beamed out from the ship, and 200 cubic meters of water+whales was beamed in. Quite a spectacular bubble...

  • Yes, the other end of that transport would have been the more interesting sight. ;-)
    – DevSolar
    Mar 9, 2016 at 11:05
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    @devsolar - The novelisation mentions that the water 'rushed in' to the gap.
    – Valorum
    Mar 9, 2016 at 11:20

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