Whirlpool

Whirlpool

Overview



A whirlpool is a swirling body of water
Water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

 usually produced by ocean tides. The vast majority of whirlpools are not very powerful. More powerful ones are more properly termed maelstrom
Maelstrom
A maelstrom is a very powerful whirlpool; a large, swirling body of water. A free vortex, it has considerable downdraft. The power of tidal whirlpools tends to be exaggerated by laymen. There are virtually no stories of large ships ever being sucked into a maelstrom, although smaller craft are in...

s
. Vortex
Vortex
A vortex is a spinning, often turbulent,flow of fluid. Any spiral motion with closed streamlines is vortex flow. The motion of the fluid swirling rapidly around a center is called a vortex...

is the proper term for any whirlpool that has a downdraft. Very small whirlpools can easily be seen when a bath or a sink is draining, but these are produced in a very different manner from those in nature.
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A whirlpool is a swirling body of water
Water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

 usually produced by ocean tides. The vast majority of whirlpools are not very powerful. More powerful ones are more properly termed maelstrom
Maelstrom
A maelstrom is a very powerful whirlpool; a large, swirling body of water. A free vortex, it has considerable downdraft. The power of tidal whirlpools tends to be exaggerated by laymen. There are virtually no stories of large ships ever being sucked into a maelstrom, although smaller craft are in...

s
. Vortex
Vortex
A vortex is a spinning, often turbulent,flow of fluid. Any spiral motion with closed streamlines is vortex flow. The motion of the fluid swirling rapidly around a center is called a vortex...

is the proper term for any whirlpool that has a downdraft. Very small whirlpools can easily be seen when a bath or a sink is draining, but these are produced in a very different manner from those in nature. Smaller whirlpools also appear at the base of many waterfall
Waterfall
A waterfall is a place where flowing water rapidly drops in elevation as it flows over a steep region or a cliff.-Formation:Waterfalls are commonly formed when a river is young. At these times the channel is often narrow and deep. When the river courses over resistant bedrock, erosion happens...

s. In the case of powerful waterfalls, like Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls
The Niagara Falls, located on the Niagara River draining Lake Erie into Lake Ontario, is the collective name for the Horseshoe Falls and the adjacent American Falls along with the comparatively small Bridal Veil Falls, which combined form the highest flow rate of any waterfalls in the world and has...

, these whirlpools can be quite strong. The most powerful whirlpools are created in narrow shallow straits with fast flowing water.

Notable whirlpools


The five strongest whirlpools in the world are the Saltstraumen
Saltstraumen
Saltstraumen is a sound with a strong tidal current located in Nordland 30 km east of the city of Bodø, Norway. The narrow channel connects the outer Saltfjord with its extension, the large Skjerstadfjord. It is the strongest tidal current in the world...

 outside Bodø
Bodø
is a city and a municipality in Nordland county, Norway. It is part of the Salten region.The city of Bodø was established as a municipality on 1 January 1838 . Bodin was merged with Bodø on 1 January 1968. Skjerstad was merged with Bodø on 1 January 2005...

 in Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

, which reaches speeds of 37 km/h (23 mph); the Moskstraumen
Moskstraumen
The Moskenstraumen or Moskstraumen is a system of tidal eddies and whirlpools, one of the strongest in the world, that forms at the Lofoten archipelago, Norway, in the Norwegian Sea. It is located between the...

 off the Lofoten
Lofoten
Lofoten is an archipelago and a traditional district in the county of Nordland, Norway. Though lying within the Arctic Circle, the archipelago experiences one of the world's largest elevated temperature anomalies relative to its high latitude.-Etymology:...

 islands in Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 (the original maelstrom), which reaches speeds of 27.8 km/h (17.3 mph); the Old Sow
Old Sow
Old Sow is the largest tidal whirlpool in the Western Hemisphere located off the southwestern shore of Deer Island, New Brunswick, Canada between that island and Moose Island, the principal island of Eastport, Maine....

 in Eastport, Maine
Eastport, Maine
Eastport is a small city in Washington County, Maine, United States. The population was 1,640 at the 2000 census. The principal island is Moose Island, which is connected to the mainland by causeway...

, United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, which has been measured with a speed of up to 27.6 km/h (17.1 mph); the Naruto whirlpools in Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, which have a speed of 20 km/h (12.4 mph); and the Corryvreckan
Gulf of Corryvreckan
The Gulf of Corryvreckan , also called the Strait of Corryvreckan, is a narrow strait between the islands of Jura and Scarba, in Argyll and Bute, off the west coast of Scotland.It is possible for tourists to visit the site by way of boats trips from local harbours.- Topography...

 in Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, which reaches speeds of 18 km/h (11.2 mph).

Powerful whirlpools have killed unlucky seafarers, but their power tends to be exaggerated by laymen. There are virtually no stories of large ships ever being sucked into a whirlpool. Tales like those by Paul the Deacon
Paul the Deacon
Paul the Deacon , also known as Paulus Diaconus, Warnefred, Barnefridus and Cassinensis, , was a Benedictine monk and historian of the Lombards.-Life:...

, Jules Verne
Jules Verne
Jules Gabriel Verne was a French author who pioneered the science fiction genre. He is best known for his novels Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea , A Journey to the Center of the Earth , and Around the World in Eighty Days...

 and Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe was an American author, poet, editor and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective...

 are entirely fictional. The closest equivalent might have been the short-lived whirlpool that sucked in a portion of Lake Peigneur
Lake Peigneur
Lake Peigneur is located in the U.S. State of Louisiana north of Delcambre and west of New Iberia, near the northernmost tip of Vermilion Bay.-History:...

 in New Iberia, Louisiana
New Iberia, Louisiana
New Iberia is a city in and the parish seat of Iberia Parish, Louisiana, United States, 30 miles southeast of Lafayette. In 1900, 6,815 people lived in New Iberia; in 1910, 7,499; and in 1940, 13,747...

, USA
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 after a drilling mishap in 1980. This was not a naturally-occurring whirlpool, but a man-made disaster caused by breaking through the roof of a salt mine. The lake then behaved like a gigantic bathtub being drained, until the mine filled and the water levels equalized. Although some boats and semi trailers were pulled into it in the classic whirlpool stereotype, no human lives were lost.

Dangers


In popular imagination, but only rarely in reality, whirlpools can have the dangerous effect of destroying boat
Boat
A boat is a watercraft of any size designed to float or plane, to provide passage across water. Usually this water will be inland or in protected coastal areas. However, boats such as the whaleboat were designed to be operated from a ship in an offshore environment. In naval terms, a boat is a...

s. In the 8th century, Paul the Deacon, who had lived among the Belgii, described tidal bore
Tidal bore
A tidal bore is a tidal phenomenon in which the leading edge of the incoming tide forms a wave of water that travel up a river or narrow bay against the direction of the river or bay's current...

s and the maelstrom
Maelstrom
A maelstrom is a very powerful whirlpool; a large, swirling body of water. A free vortex, it has considerable downdraft. The power of tidal whirlpools tends to be exaggerated by laymen. There are virtually no stories of large ships ever being sucked into a maelstrom, although smaller craft are in...

 for a Mediterranean audience unused to such violent tidal surges:

"Not very far from this shore... toward the western side, on which the ocean main lies open without end, is that very deep whirlpool of waters which we call by its familiar name "the navel of the sea." This is said to suck in the waves and spew them forth again twice every day... They say there is another whirlpool of this kind between the island of Britain and the province of Galicia, and with this fact the coasts of the Seine region and of Aquitaine agree, for they are filled twice a day with such sudden inundations that any one who may by chance be found only a little inward from the shore can hardly get away. I have heard a certain high nobleman of the Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

s relating that a number of ships, shattered at first by a tempest, were afterwards devoured by this same Charybdis
Charybdis
Charybdis or Kharybdis was a sea monster, later rationalised as a whirlpool and considered a shipping hazard in the Strait of Messina.-The mythological background:...

. And when one only out of all the men who had been in these ships, still breathing, swam over the waves, while the rest were dying, he came, swept by the force of the receding waters, up to the edge of that most frightful abyss. And when now he beheld yawning before him the deep chaos whose end he could not see, and half dead from very fear, expected to be hurled into it, suddenly in a way that he could not have hoped he was cast upon a certain rock and sat him down." Paul the Deacon, History of the Lombards, i.6

In "Vingt mille lieues sous les mers" (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is a classic science fiction novel by French writer Jules Verne published in 1870. It tells the story of Captain Nemo and his submarine Nautilus as seen from the perspective of Professor Pierre Aronnax...

), first published in 1869–1870 in the magazine Magasin d'Éducation et de Récréation, Jules Verne
Jules Verne
Jules Gabriel Verne was a French author who pioneered the science fiction genre. He is best known for his novels Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea , A Journey to the Center of the Earth , and Around the World in Eighty Days...

 (1828–1905) wrote :
«Maelstrom! Maelstrom!» s'écriait-il! Le Maelstrom! Un nom plus effrayant dans une situation plus effrayante pouvait-il retentir à notre oreille?


Which translates "'Maelstrom! Maelstrom!' he exclaimed! The Maelstrom! Could a more horrifying name in a more frightening situation blare in our ear?"

See also

  • Coriolis effect
    Coriolis effect
    In physics, the Coriolis effect is a deflection of moving objects when they are viewed in a rotating reference frame. In a reference frame with clockwise rotation, the deflection is to the left of the motion of the object; in one with counter-clockwise rotation, the deflection is to the right...

  • Eddy (fluid dynamics)
    Eddy (fluid dynamics)
    In fluid dynamics, an eddy is the swirling of a fluid and the reverse current created when the fluid flows past an obstacle. The moving fluid creates a space devoid of downstream-flowing fluid on the downstream side of the object...

  • Maelstrom
    Maelstrom
    A maelstrom is a very powerful whirlpool; a large, swirling body of water. A free vortex, it has considerable downdraft. The power of tidal whirlpools tends to be exaggerated by laymen. There are virtually no stories of large ships ever being sucked into a maelstrom, although smaller craft are in...

  • Naruto whirlpools
  • Vortex
    Vortex
    A vortex is a spinning, often turbulent,flow of fluid. Any spiral motion with closed streamlines is vortex flow. The motion of the fluid swirling rapidly around a center is called a vortex...


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