Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Maelstrom of Saltstraumen

Maelstroms are powerful whirlpools occurring in oceans. A maelstrom is caused when water is forced to twist around an object or when water streams into a narrower strait, causing the water to flow faster and to create energetic swirling turbulence .The water swirls downwards around an imaginary axis. The word maelstrom is a descriptive name derived from the Dutch word ‘maalstroom’ which translates to ‘grinding-stream’, implying that the whirlpool’s spinning is like a grinding mill.

The maelstrom in the image is a maelstrom at Saltsraumen, the strongest tidal current in the world that has existed for about two to three thousand years. Saltstraumen is a narrow strait in the west coast of Norway, closer to the Arctic Circle, and connects two larger water bodies, the outer Saltfjorden to the large Skjerstadfjorden which is closer to the inland. A huge tide with up to 400,000,000 cubic meters of seawater moving at a speed of around 40 km per hour forces its way through a mere 3 kilometer long and 150 meter wide strait every six hours trying to fill up the Skjerstadfjorden resulting in the maelstrom.The maelstrom can be around 10 meters in diameter and 5 meters in depth when the current is at its strongest.

Literature and movies have fantasized maelstroms as inescapable and powerful forces. In reality, there is actually a time window when the tidal currents turn, larger ships can sail through the Saltstraumen strait and the currents appear calm. Nevertheless, great caution needs to be exercised as the underwater currents are constantly twisting. On a positive note, there is an abundance of fish in this region caused by the strong currents and a super size coalfish of 22.7 kilos was caught here setting the world record for coalfish caught with a fishing pole.

Read about more such maelstroms at

The official tourist guide to Saltsraumen is at

Image : Maelstrom at Saltsraumen

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