A maelstrom is a powerful open-water whirlpool which is created by clashing water currents. A few maelstroms are caused by tsunamis. However, the best known maelstroms from around the world are all in locations which are also known for strong currents and particularly high or fast tides.
The original Maelstrom made famous by Edgar Allen Poe and Jules Verne is the Moskstraumen, a strong tidal current in the Lofoten Islands off the northeastern Norwegian coast. The tides in this region rise 13 feet high, at a typical speed of about 7 miles per hour. All that water has to go from the 1,600-foot deep fjords over an island ridge of just 66 feet deep. The result is one of the most famous maelstroms in the world.
However, the Moskstraumen is in the open sea, so it is difficult to see the way most other maelstroms can be seen. It is more commonly experienced as extremely choppy waters, because no wise captain would venture much closer. The rest has been passed down through ship's lore.
Norway is also home to the world's strongest maelstrom, Saltstraumen. It can be found 18 miles east of Bodo. Individual whirlpools in the Saltstraumen can be up to 33 feet wide.
The extreme tides in this region are caused by a narrow channel which connects an outer fjord with the much larger inner Skjerstadfjord. At times, the difference in sea level between the fjord and the open sea can be more than 3 feet.
Although this is a minor tidal whirlpool in the Strait of Messina, between Sicily and the Italian mainland, it can still be hazardous to small boats. Charybdis has great historical fame for having been originally mentioned in Homer's Odyssey.
This maelstrom can be found on the northern side of the Gulf of Corryvreckan, between the islands of Jura and Scarba off the west coast of Scotland. It is the third-largest maelstrom in the world, with tidal waves up to 30 feet high. George Orwell once nearly drowned in it.
A mannequin with a depth gauge was once tossed into the Corryvreckan by a documentary team. When it was recovered a long distance away, the gauge readings showed that the mannequin had reached a depth of over 800 feet and had been dragged along the ocean floor.
The Naruto strait between Tokushima and Awaji Island in Japan connects the Inland Sea to the Pacific Ocean. As a result, the tides create an area of whirlpools all through the strait. The tidal currents here are the fourth fastest in the world.
The Old Sow
The Bay of Fundy has some of the highest tides in the world. The Old Sow can be found between Eastport, Maine, and Deer Island in New Brunswick, Canada. Its currents are even faster than the Naruto whirlpools. Several of the rivers associated with the Bay of Fundy have large tidal bores.