NWDTsunamisWhirlpool Facts & Information: Nature: Beautiful & Extremely Dangerous!

Whirlpool Facts & Information: Nature: Beautiful & Extremely Dangerous!

what does a whirlpool look like

If you ask a poet what does a whirlpool look like, the answer will be the following: a huge funnel in the center of a mass of water spinning at a huge speed, grabbing and dragging not only poor and innocent people, but also boats and huge ships to the sea (river, or ocean) bottom.

The whirlpool brings death and destruction to all who are unlucky enough to get caught in it. Such are the properties, at least according to the fiction and literature, of the whirlpool. Are whirlpools dangerous? In reality, everything is not as terrible as it seems at first sight, because the scale, as well as the dangers of such a phenomena, are greatly exaggerated.

What Is Whirlpool?

A large whirlpool can be seen on a river, in the sea, or in the ocean. A whirlpool formation appears when the water stream begins to move in a circle at different speeds.

What causes whirlpools?

What causes whirlpools?

Whirlpools are usually caused by collisions at the bottom of a river or a deep hole in the sea, which causes turbulence and the water to swirl. There are some other whirlpool causes. For instance, when the flow collides with some solid obstacle (such as a bank ledge, bridge abutments, etc.). When one stream meets not with a solid obstacle, but with a countercurrent of the same size or with water currents formed during tides, whirlpools are quite large (they mainly appear in narrow channels, which separate islands from each other or the mainland). Now you know the answer to the question: “how does a whirlpool form?”

Where does the water go in a whirlpool?

A circular rotation is formed when the stream of water encounters an obstacle and then turns back, moving against the current. But all the water does not have time to return, and it bumps into the newly arriving water flow. As a consequence, it begins to rotate at a speed largely dependent on the speed of the stream.

For example, whirlpools in the ocean are a leisurely movement of giant water masses in a circle, the diameter of which can be several hundred miles, while a river whirlpool may well swirl at a speed of 30 mph. Rotating in a fairly limited space, the water tries to “escape” from the trap and reach the outer edge of the whirlpool, creating a depression in the center. The vortex of a whirlpool can be different – from five centimeters to a thousand miles.

A whirlpool phenomenon of such a size can be seen only in the ocean. If we are talking about a river, after a whirlpool is formed, the water, rotating at high speed, is forced to the bottom. Below, the water molecules hold the bottom for a while, after which they start moving towards the current, which has a lower velocity. Thus, the whirlpools erode the bottom, which creates a hole that can often be more than 66 feet deep. An interesting whirlpool fact is that a new whirlpool can often form in this hole.

All about Whirlpools: Types

Whirlpools: Types

River Whirlpools

These whirlpools are formed where part of the bank protrudes into the body of water, near bridges, dams, dikes, etc.

If it appears on the right side, it turns clockwise, and if on the left, then counterclockwise. If the diameter of the whirlpool reaches several tens of feet, the movement in it will be extremely slow and little noticeable. If the vortex is small and its diameter is only a few feet, the speed of water flow will be much higher and the funnel will be visible and may be dangerous. For a ship of large size, such a whirlpool is not dangerous.

If the length of the boat corresponds to the size of the whirlpool of this type, then it may well turn to one hundred and eighty degrees – so ships are recommended to move on the whirlpool at maximum speed. But small vessels, the size of which is much smaller than the whirlpool, may be drawn. Well, how to survive a whirlpool in this case? When sailors find themselves in this situation, they have to move at a low speed to the edge of the whirlpool and increase the speed only when approaching the main current. Sea whirlpools appear mainly when tidal and countercurrent currents collide with each other.

Mountain Whirlpools

This type of whirlpool is characteristic of mountain rivers. The water in it swirls at the speed of the stream, which is extremely fast. It is quite capable of pulling a person into a vortex, where he can be choked and drowned. Such a whirlpool is dangerous for boats as well.


Rings are large whirlpools that form in the ocean. They were discovered relatively recently – in the seventies of the last century when scientists eight hundred miles from Ogasawara found a giant whirlpool with a diameter of about 100 kilometers and a depth of 16 thousand feet.

Subsequently, several more rings were discovered. This type of whirlpool is not easy to spot. To prove that they exist, scientists used special measuring instruments. They can be seen from satellites as well. Oceanic whirlpools can exist for as long as five years. They appear because of the vertical movements of huge water streams, different in density, temperature indexes, and even salinity when deep waters rise to the surface and then fall.

At the same time:

  • if the water comes down from the outer part of the vortex, the rings that are in the Northern Hemisphere rotate counterclockwise; those in the Southern Hemisphere rotate clockwise;
  • if the water moves toward the middle of the whirlpool and descends to the ocean floor in the center, it’s the other way around.

Whichever way the whirlpool spins, the surface of the ocean or sea will never be horizontal, and the center of the ring will be several tens of meters below the ocean water surface. Another interesting feature of the ring and whirlpool danger is the presence of frequently occurring fogs. This is because the water, which rises from a depth of seven miles, has an extremely low temperature.

When it comes in contact with warm air, the water vapor condenses and fog appears.

  1. Seasonal vortexes occur mostly because of some seasonal change. This can be a rise of the water in a river or a sudden change in the direction of the current.
  2. Episodic water vortexes occur every few years, on an ad hoc basis. They are difficult to predict, so they can cause some serious damage.
  3. Permanent whirlpools are formed usually in the same area over many years, move at high speed, and are quite dangerous.

Earth’s Most Famous Whirlpools

Earth’s Most Famous Whirlpools
  1. Naruto Strait in Japan is just over three miles wide. It connects the Pacific Ocean to the Inland Sea of Japan and is located between the islands of Honshu and Shikoku. Tidal currents decrease the sea level twice a day, making the difference between the ocean water and seawater one and a half meters at this time.
  2. The whirlpool in the Hebrides Straits is located near the Scottish coast between the Hebridean islands. The bottom is littered with rocks and potholes, and the whirlpool is nearly 200 feet in diameter. This whirlpool is not constant, and its appearance depends directly on the tides.

We hope this article was informative and interesting. Stay tuned for our new releases!

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