Whales need water to support their heavy bodies’ weight, and to cool them down. Big whales need these things more urgently that small ones. Big whales can survive for a few hours—longer if people keep them cool by pouring water on them.
I should add, scientists don’t do cruel experiments to find this out: they observe what happens when whales get washed ashore (and of course, they try to help the whales if they can).
Whales live in water and are often pretty big, so if they end up washing ashore their bodies are suddenly under a lot of pressure and they end up overheating, burning in the sun and being unable to move. So they can’t really survive very long out of water. It’s really tragic when large whales get beached–people try to keep them alive by pouring water over them, but they need to get back in the water as quickly as possible (within a few hours) to survive.
Hi cookie555 I agree with Nick and Jane, I don’t think a whale would survive for a long time without water surrounding it. Just in the same way that we wouldn’t survive long without air surrounding us.