December 18, 2006


“In full roar this whirlpool is so loud it can be heard almost ten miles away.”



One of he world’s largest is in Scotland in the gulf of Corryvreckan and I grew up with stories about it.

My uncle has a cottage on the Crinan Canal and we spent at least 2 weeks there every year, at Easter and October. At Crinan harbour my father would point out to one of the islands (Jura) and tell us stories about the giant whirlpool on the other side that sucked you under.

These stories included one of my earliest connections to sea kayaking – my dad told me someone had kayaked across it (maybe he was talking about Derek Hutchinson?). Although the scariest idea was saved for a guy called Bill Dunn who swan across it. (I don’t know for sure but that can’t have been at full flood when its at its strongest).

Now of course I have found out that lots of people kayak across it although the amount of flood is not clear. You can read one persons story here.

This is a description of the water state from Gemini water cruises:

On the flood, water has flowed up the Sound of Jura and has been agitated by the geography of the seabed. There are innumerable humps and holes and reefs in the Sound and these create terrific tidal flows, up-thrusts and eddies all over the place until finally in the Gulf there is a huge hole down to 219 metres before being confronted by a pinnacle of rock off the Scarba shore which rises to 29 metres from the surface. The steep east face of the pinnacle forces a massive upthrust of water to surface in pulses which are then swept away westward by the tidal flow and these dissipate into vortices or whirlpools moving west.

This is all clearly visible when there is no wind and the turbulent patterns are fascinating to see in mirror calm conditions. However when there is any serious wind strength, particularly from the west, the up-thrusts at the pinnacle fold into the oncoming waves and accentuate them. Thus building, in gale force conditions, standing waves that can be 8, 10 or 15 feet high. A truly awesome sight!

You can also get a dvd! check it out here. The main site for reading about Corryvreckan is whirlpoolscotland.co.uk which also has specific advice for kayakers and some terrifying anecdoates! That site also links to a dive site which has this factual information:

When the tide turns, it’s here [the pinnacle] that the downward currents are at their most dangerous – they can take you down to 75m or more. There are many horror stories of divers being swept away, jackets fully inflated as they’re forced deeper.

There is also a huge whirlpool in Japan.

naruto wood block print

And I’ve been there – out in one of the BIG boats – to see it. It was amazing and scary too, you could just imagine what would happen if you fell overboard.

It’s location is between Shikoku (the so called fourth island of Japan) and the main island of Honshu. My brother-in-law and his wife invited us to their place in Tokushima (at the time) and showed us around.

Underneath the world’s longest, single span suspension bridge is a monster whirlpool.

The strait between Naruto and Awaji island has a width of about 1.3 km. The strait is one of the connections between the Pacific Ocean and the Inland Sea… Due to the narrow strait, the water rushes through the Naruto channel at a speed of about 13-15 km/h. During a spring tide, the speed of the water may reach 20 km/h, creating a vortex up to 20 m in diameter.

The current in the strait is the fastest in Japan and the third fastest in the world after Moskstraumen of Norway with a top speed of 27.8 km/h and the Old Sow between New Brunswick and Maine with a top speed of 27.7 km/h. wikipedia

copyright nicholas delarue

Not been to the Norway or Maine ones…

EDIT: actually on doing more research on the Moskstraumen in Norway I discovered/remembered that I have been there or at least close by. When I was 11 we spent a month on Trondheim in the summer holidays (caught 100 cod in the space of a few weeks).  Anyway read more about the Moskstraumen here.

And a site with pictures of the old sow which is perhaps more interesting than the Moskstraumen but without the historical gravitas.

2 Responses to “Whirlpools”

  1. Grazie Says:

    Some useful information and links in this article. Much appreciated!

  2. Whoa! That whirlpool looks so amazing. I’ve heard a lot about corryvreckan whirlpool. It’s said to be a perfect place for adventure specially during summer. It would be great to go there.

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