What Is a Maelstrom?

Also known as a whirlpool or an oceanic blackhole, maelstroms are powerful natural phenomena that have struck fear into the hearts of seamen for centuries. A maelstrom is a strong rotational current that’s created when weather and conditions with currents are just right. They occur when opposite currents collide and create a circular vortex.

Vikings feared maelstroms because they are large enough and strong enough to suck in entire ships. While they’re still very dangerous today, large modern ships are often able to withstand the strength of maelstroms without being sucked under the water by them.

Some maelstroms develop because of temporary environmental conditions, while some exist in areas that are so conducive to their existence that they’ve existed for hundreds of years.

There are three permanent maelstroms:

  • Saltstraumen—the world’s strongest maelstrom located off the coast of Norway
  • Moskstraumen—a system of whirlpools that is close to the Lofoten Islands off the Norwegian coast
  • Corryvreckan—a whirlpool that's located off the coast of Scotland in the Gulf of Corryvreckan

Are Maelstroms Dangerous for Cruise Ship & Other Vessels?

As mentioned above, many modern ships—including cruise ships—are large enough to sail through maelstroms and survive the task. While maelstroms should be avoided by a vessel’s crew at all costs, encounters with them are unavoidable.

While cruise ships might be able to sail through maelstroms, the experience can be harrowing for anyone on them. Cruise ships that encounter maelstroms must withstand massive waves that can rock the large vessels from side to side, often violently. The results are dangerous conditions for passengers aboard the ship as objects and people alike are thrown by the waves.

The Lake Peigneur Disaster: A Show of Maelstrom Power

Some instances of temporary maelstroms have resulted in significant disasters. For example, the Lake Peigneur disaster of 1980 occurred in Iberia Parish, Louisiana. The incident was triggered when a Texaco oil rig accidentally sent water into the Diamond Crystal Salt Company salt mine beneath the lake. The event triggered a maelstrom that swallowed the drilling platform, eleven barges, a tugboat, dozens of trees, and 65 acres of land.

If You’ve Been Injured in an Offshore Accident, We’re Ready to Fight for You

If you’ve sustained injuries from a maelstrom while on a vessel, it’s likely that steps could have been taken to protect you. Call Arnold & Itkin LLP today for help from a team of maritime lawyers who’ve recovered billions for clients. We’ve fought some of the largest companies in the world after some of the worst offshore accidents in history. Now, we’re ready to demand the answers you deserve.

Call our maelstrom accident lawyers today at (888) 346-5024 for a free consultation.

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