AskDefine | Define whirlpool

The Collaborative Dictionary

Whirlpool \Whirl"pool`\, n. [1913 Webster]
An eddy or vortex of water; a place in a body of water where the water moves round in a circle so as to produce a depression or cavity in the center, into which floating objects may be drawn; any body of water having a more or less circular motion caused by its flowing in an irregular channel, by the coming together of opposing currents, or the like. [1913 Webster]
A sea monster of the whale kind. [Obs.] --Spenser. [1913 Webster] The Indian Sea breedeth the most and the biggest fishes that are; among which the whales and whirlpools, called "balaenae," take up in length as much as four . . . arpents of land. --Holland. [1913 Webster]

Word Net

whirlpool n : a powerful circular current of water (usually the resulting of conflicting tides) [syn: vortex, maelstrom] v : flow in a circular current, of liquids [syn: eddy, purl, swirl, whirl]



A whirlpool is a swirling body of water usually produced by ocean tides. The vast majority of whirlpools are not very powerful. More powerful ones are more properly termed maelstroms. Vortex is the proper term for any whirlpool that has a downdraft. (Technically, these approximate to a 'free vortex', in which the tangential velocity (v) increases as the centre line is approached, so that the angular momentum (rv) is constant). Very small whirlpools can easily be seen when a bath or a sink is draining, but these are produced in a very different manner from those in nature. Smaller whirlpools also appear at the base of many waterfalls. In the case of powerful waterfalls, like Niagara Falls, these whirlpools can be quite strong. The most powerful whirlpools are created in narrow shallow straits with fast flowing water.
The Moskstraumen off the Lofoten islands in Norway is generally considered the world's most powerful whirlpool, along with Saltstraumen which reaches speeds of 40 km/h. The Meilnort has been measured with a speed of the water current of up to 27.7 km/h, and the Old Sow has been measured with a speed of up to 27.6 km/h . The Naruto whirlpool has a speed of 20 km/h. Powerful whirlpools have killed unlucky seafarers, but their power tends to be exaggerated by laymen. There are virtually no stories of large ships ever being sucked into a whirlpool. Tales like those by Paul the Deacon, Jules Verne and Edgar Allan Poe are entirely fictional. The closest equivalent might have been the short-lived whirlpool that sucked in a portion of Lake Peigneur in New Iberia, Louisiana, USA after a drilling mishap in 1980. This was not a naturally-occurring whirlpool, but a man-made disaster caused by breaking through the roof of a salt mine. The lake then behaved like a gigantic bathtub being drained, until the mine filled and the water levels equalized. Although some boats and semi trailers were pulled into it in the classic whirlpool stereotype, no human lives were lost.
In popular imagination, but only rarely in reality, whirlpools can have the dangerous effect of destroying boats. In the 8th century, Paul the Deacon, who had lived among the Belgii, described tidal bores and the maelstrom for a Mediterranean audience unused to such violent tidal surges:
''Not very far from this shore... toward the western side, on which the ocean main lies open without end, is that very deep whirlpool of waters which we call by its familiar name "the navel of the sea." This is said to suck in the waves and spew them forth again twice every day...
They say there is another whirlpool of this kind between the island of Britain and the province of Galicia, and with this fact the coasts of the Seine region and of Aquitaine agree, for they are filled twice a day with such sudden inundations that any one who may by chance be found only a little inward from the shore can hardly get away.
I have heard a certain high nobleman of the Gauls relating that a number of ships, shattered at first by a tempest, were afterwards devoured by this same Charybdis. And when one only out of all the men who had been in these ships, still breathing, swam over the waves, while the rest were dying, he came, swept by the force of the receding waters, up to the edge of that most frightful abyss. And when now he beheld yawning before him the deep chaos whose end he could not see, and half dead from very fear, expected to be hurled into it, suddenly in a way that he could not have hoped he was cast upon a certain rock and sat him down. — Paul the Deacon, History of the Lombards, i.6
In "Vingt mille lieues sous les mers" (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea), first published in 1869-1870 in the magazine "Magasin d'Éducation et de Récréation", Jules Verne (1828-1905) wrote :
«Maelstrom! Maelstrom!» s'écriait-il! Le Maelstrom! Un nom plus effrayant dans une situation plus effrayante pouvait-il retentir à notre oreille? ''

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whirlpool in Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa): Вір (зьява)
whirlpool in German: Strudel (Physik)
whirlpool in Esperanto: Kirlo
whirlpool in Spanish: Remolino
whirlpool in Dutch: Draaikolk
whirlpool in Portuguese: Turbilhão
whirlpool in Russian: Водоворот
whirlpool in Turkish: Anafor
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