Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- This article is about the water movement, whirlpool. For other uses, please see Whirlpool (disambiguation).
A whirlpool is a large, swirling body of water produced by ocean tides. In popular imagination, but only rarely in reality they can have the dangerous effects of destroying boats. In the 8th century, Paul the Deacon, who had lived among the Belgii, described tidal bores and the maelstrom 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 Gauls relating that a number of ships, shattered at first by a tempest, were afterwards devoured by this same Charybdis. 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
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 waterfalls. In the case of powerful ones like Niagara Falls these whirlpools can be quite potent.
The most powerful whirlpools are created in narrow shallow straits with fast flowing water. The Moskstraumen off the Lofoten islands in Norway is generally considered the world's most powerful whirlpool, but some claim the Old Sow is stronger. The Moskstraumen has been measured with a speed of the water current of up to 27.8 km/h, and the Old Sow has been measured with a speed of up to 27.7 km/h . The third strongest, Naruto whirlpool, has a speed of 20 km/h. Powerful whirlpools have killed unlucky seafarers, but their power tends to be exaggerated in fiction. There are virtually no stories of large ships ever being sucked into a whirlpool. Tales like those by Paul the Deacon, Jules Verne and Edgar Allan Poe are wholly made up.
- Corryvreckan off the coast of Scotland
- Moskstraumen off the coast of Norway
- Saltstraumen off the coast of Norway
- Old Sow between New Brunswick and Maine
- Naruto whirlpool between Naruto in Tokushima and Awaji Island in Hyogo, Japan
- Garofalo off the coast of Italy
- Charybdis fictional from the Odyssey
- the short lived whirlpool that sucked in Lake Peigneur in New Iberia, Louisiana after a drilling mishap.
- Eye of the Maelstrom, Smithsonian Magazine, August 2001 by Simon Winchester
- Analysis of whirlpools
- A Descent into the Maelström - By Edgar Allan Poe
- "Whirlpool" prominent Australian broadband site of the same name
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