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Behold the Maelstrom!
March 29, 2010 1:13 PM   Subscribe

There are five great permanent tidal whirlpools in the world: off of Maine, the Old Sow Whirlpool has supposedly sunk ships; Japan's Naruto Whirlpools can be seen from space; Corryvreckan, off of Scotland, is the third largest; next is the original Maelstrom in Norway, which inspired Poe's story; and the most powerful of all is the Norse Saltstraumen [video]. All of these pale in comparison to the whirlpool formed in 1980 on Lake Peigneur in Louisiana, where a drilling rig penetrated a salt mine under the lake and 3.5 billion gallons of water drained away in three hours through a swirling vortex, as can be seen in this documentary excerpt.
posted by blahblahblah (24 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
It sucks now, it sucked then.

Although you did add more international suckness to this fpp...
posted by HuronBob at 1:19 PM on March 29, 2010


That Old Sow Whirlpool link just clicks and takes me back to the same page, round and round... oh.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:23 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


even though my mind can easily handle fluid dynamics there is something really creepy about whirlpools.
posted by nathancaswell at 1:26 PM on March 29, 2010


"can be seen from space" doesn't mean what it used to...
posted by mariokrat at 1:28 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


The fact that nobody died in that Lake Peigneur disaster (particularly in the mines) is nothing short of amazing.
posted by nanojath at 1:33 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


We set off—from a fishing village that was called simply Å—in a powerful rubber boat. The skipper was Stig Einarsen: he had hands the size of dinner plates and the stance of an ox. There was a lumpy following sea, and we bumped uncomfortably southward, the cliffs rising ever higher on our right, flocks of seabirds swooping down to see who was bent on such madness.
Friends, that is some big goddamn writing right there.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:49 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


the Old Sow Whirlpool has supposedly sunk ships

What, with its shitty web design?

seriously, whirlpools are cool though.

posted by drjimmy11 at 1:52 PM on March 29, 2010


The Lake Peigneur disaster sounds like an epic "Whoops!" moment.
posted by Skeptic at 1:55 PM on March 29, 2010


The ad served up at the bottom of the Saltstraumen video invited me to "book a relaxing sea journey to Denmark, England, or Norway."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:09 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Friends, that is some big goddamn writing right there.

It really is.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:49 PM on March 29, 2010


Yeah, whirlpools are all swirly fun and all, but pity the poor captain of the Fair Isle Good Shepherd who has to cross the Sumburgh Roost twice a day. The Roost is a vile tidal rip caused by merging tides south of mainland Shetland. I'd heard it can cause a step change of 18" in the tide levels, and shows as a permanent faint silver band of waves.

To quote the captain when I was on the boat, "The trick is to spew as early as you can, so you can get on with the rest of the trip." Indeed, every morning when he gets in the cabin, he sets up his barf bag. About twenty minutes in, he hurls politely, and flings the bag out the window. He's got the same to look forward to on the way back. Every day.

I've been on the Good Shepherd four times. Four times I puked with a ferocity never before seen. The first time I thought it'd be a good idea to skip breakfast. Well, you know that sound a car makes when its starter's jammed? That was me, squirting up bile the colour of washing-up liquid into the bag. The last time is too nasty to recount here, but it involved marmalade.
posted by scruss at 2:52 PM on March 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


Lake Peigneur was quite a disaster but if you fuck up epically, that's really the way to do it: no deaths and all the evidence ended up being sucked into the drain.
posted by rainy at 3:20 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, that was fascinating. Thanks!
posted by zzazazz at 3:27 PM on March 29, 2010


as can be seen in this documentary excerpt

Jesus H. Christ that is awesomely-fan-terrifyingly cooltastic!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:29 PM on March 29, 2010


The Engineering Disasters episodes of Modern Marvels are the best episodes of Modern Marvels.
posted by misskaz at 4:33 PM on March 29, 2010


Quicksand and whirlpools used to give me the heebie jeebies as a kid. All thanks to cartoons and movies.

I learnt something today: permanent whirlpools. Thanks for that, blahblahblah. But I skipped straight to the "most powerful of all" video link [as you do] and I dunno... it didn't look much different to plenty of rock-filled, fast flowing rivers I've seen in my time.

Oh yeah, and lava. That shit will get ya every time.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:02 PM on March 29, 2010


Cool beans....cool swirling beans.
posted by Atreides at 6:03 PM on March 29, 2010


[SPOILER ALERT!]

This FPP is a vortex of suck.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:25 PM on March 29, 2010


Lake Peigneur is just down the street, I've kayaked up there from Delcambre a few times. You can still see the chimney of a house sticking up from where it slid into the water. Last time I was there, a few years ago, there was a drilling rig parked in the middle of the lake.
posted by atchafalaya at 6:46 PM on March 29, 2010


That... was.... \m/ AWESOME! \m/
posted by TheManChild2000 at 8:23 PM on March 29, 2010


Corryvreckan is awesome. It features in I Know Where I'm Going!, one of the great early romantic comedies. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes a good romance.
posted by Partario at 8:40 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


it didn't look much different to plenty of rock-filled, fast flowing rivers I've seen in my time

How about the part where the giant container ships were pulled under by the vortex, only to pop up like corks in a bathtub once the hole was filled? I haven't seen too many rivers do that.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:34 AM on March 30, 2010


A few years after WWII the Royal Navy decided that it needed to know more about the power of whirlpools and decided to sail one of its vessels through the middle of Corryvreckan. The ship chosen was HMS Illustrious, one of the navy's largest aircraft carriers. My father was a member of the crew and apparently tension was extremely high. In the event almost nothing happened and the ship's course was barely deflected.

About a year earlier, along with several of his relatives, George Orwell had almost drowned in Corryvreckan.

Partario beat me to mentioning I Know Where I'm Going, which is a delightful film.
posted by Hogshead at 7:38 AM on March 30, 2010


How about the part where the giant container ships were pulled under by the vortex, only to pop up like corks in a bathtub once the hole was filled? I haven't seen too many rivers do that.

??? That was a man made one.

Not the one I was talking about. Y'know. The bit I put in between quotation marks, quoting from the FPP.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:36 PM on March 30, 2010


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