These Whirlpools Are Miles in Length, And They Are Invisible
Your kitchen sink is filled with dirty water. You’ve just washed the dishes, and you pull the plug out of the drain hole. Do you see how the water forms a funnel, and all the pieces of food get into its center? This is a small whirlpool. Now imagine that this is not a kitchen sink, but a sea with a several feet wide whirlpool. And it draws in not pieces of food, but a small boat. And you’re on this boat! You jump off the side and try to swim away, but the whirlpool is stronger than you. It attracts you despite your attempts to swim away. So, the first thing you should do is calm down. Yeah, it isn’t easy when the deep sea is trying to swallow you up. But if you don’t save your strength, you won’t be able to survive.
And now remember one life hack. Do not try to swim in the opposite direction when the current from the shore carries you away. Head to the side. Thus, you escape from the stream sooner or later and can safely swim to the beach. Inside the whirlpool, you have to act similarly. You need to stop struggle and swim in the direction of the flow. Thus, you’ll keep your energy and increase your speed. But don’t swim at the very centre of the vortex, try to move away from it in the last moment and you’ll get out.
Now go to the surface and stay away from the whirlpool. Great! You have survived! You promise yourself never to go to sea again without a life jacket. But of course, the best way to escape from the whirlpool is not to get caught. If you’re going on a sea cruise or kayaking at the mouth of the river, find out all about these places. Perhaps they are filled with water traps. You swim to the shore and decide to learn all about whirlpools. It forms in the sink or bathtub because the water begins to drain into the hole and swirl. There are no drain holes in the sea, lake, river, or ocean. And water is formed there because of the collision of two currents.
A strong wind can only create one current. The difference in water temperature and its density can make another. Also, the current can be caused by tides. This is when the moon’s gravity affects the water. So, when two currents flowing in different directions meet, they form a vortex. Two streams of water swirl around each other and move down in a spiral, creating an empty space in the center. Most of the whirlpools are too small and don’t pose a danger. But if the water vortex is strong and large, it can sink ships. Such strong whirlpools are called maelstroms. They are usually formed when two currents collide near narrow reservoirs and straits.
The world’s largest and most dangerous maelstrom is located in the Saltstraumen Strait in northern Norway. Every six hours, a whirlpool forms there with a diameter of about 33 feet wide and 16 feet deep. And it can be several whirlpools formed at once. Ships sailing through the bay follow a strict schedule to avoid falling into the water trap. This whirlpool got into the Guinness Book of Records as the largest in the world. However, some whirlpools are hundreds of times bigger. But they are invisible. Giant whirlpools in the Arctic Ocean can reach 18 miles in length. This is the size of a city. And these giant whirlpools are invisible. Fortunately, they are not as dangerous as those that form in Norway.
The waters of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans mix and form water vortexes invisible to satellites. Usually, scientists notice such whirlpools with the help of thermal imagers or a change in the color of the water. When the current filled with marine life mixes with lifeless waters, it is visible from the satellite. But the new giant whirlpools are masked under a layer of water with the same temperature. They hide deep enough not to be noticed by satellite thermal imagers. Scientists managed to catch them using gliders. These small pilotless submarines float underwater and record information about the temperature and salt level.
Scientists discovered that these whirlpools formed because of the collision of cold and warm currents.. Warm water here is rich in nutrients, while cold water is almost lifeless. In this way, warm currents share useful elements and spread them evenly throughout this region of the ocean. Observing invisible whirlpools can help scientists uncover many details about the structure of ocean ecosystems.
Whirlpools exist not only in water but also in space. Vortexes from the plasma energy of the sun can be several times wider than the radius of our planet. However, all this solar radiation cannot create giant vortexes on Earth because the magnetic field protects us. The solar wind glides past the planet’s atmosphere like a wind over the ocean surface. But a little energy still manages to break through the protection. Solar whirlpools insert an electrified gas into the magnetic field, creating holes through which the sun’s plasma passes through the atmosphere.
If whirlpools happen during the collision of different currents, it means that you can predict their appearance in advance. But there are unpredictable natural phenomena in the seas and oceans that pose a danger for small boats, yachts, giant ships, and oil rigs. This phenomenon is called a rogue wave.
So, now let’s get aboard your yacht and sail somewhere in the ocean. It doesn’t matter what ocean and where exactly you are because rogue waves can appear anywhere. A small storm is starting, but your boat can easily handle it. The wind raises small waves that beat against the hull of your yacht. But then, among these waves, one giant appears several times larger than all the others. It would quickly turn your vessel over like a paper ship, but fortunately, this wave passes by and dissolves into the sea. This unpredictable wave of enormous power can destroy huge ships in a second. And such disasters have happened many times.
Sailors all over the world told each other stories about the giant waves that appear during a storm and in a quiet sea. Many considered such waves only fairytales, such as legends about the Kraken and Atlantis. But at the end of the 20th century, people were able to capture this sea phenomenon with laser detector that measured the size of the wave . On January 1, 1995, a massive rogue wave crashed into an oil station in the Norwegian North Sea. There was a storm that day with big waves about 40 feet long. At some point, they formed a big guy — an 85-foot wave. That day rogue waves turned from a fairy tale into reality.
Researchers estimated that this natural phenomenon may destroyed about 22 supercarriers only in the second half of the 20th century. Also, scientists discovered that just one in 10,000 waves is a rogue one. And every year, their height increases by 1%. Some of the largest rogue waves reached a height of 100 feet. It’s like a 10-story building. This giant can easily break even the strongest and largest ship. Scientists can’t always predict their appearance and still don’t know their nature, so rogue waves make the ocean a much more dangerous place than we thought.
According to one version, rogue waves appear because strong winds create big waves. When two such of waves collide with each other, giant rogue wave may appear. Another theory says that eddies create rogue waves. These eddies form along the edges of the ocean currents and then they drift separately for a long time, increasing kinetic energy and forming eddies field. The kinetic energy contained in these fields can charge the waves and increase their strength. However, scientists study microwaves and light to understand this phenomenon better. It turned out that these sea waves are similar in their behavior to these two natural things. The researchers hope studying light waves will help understand the nature of rogue waves.