How Water Eddies Form - Summary

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Eddies of water have intrigued man since ancient times. The Greek mythology, Edgar Allan Poe and Jules Verne have alluded to the intriguing phenomenon in myths, fantastic tales and horror. However, eddies have a most logical scientific explanation. In this Green Ecologist article we will explain how water eddies form and how you can get out of one. Keep reading this article so that you are prepared in the event that such a situation arises before you or one of your acquaintances and that you can respond in time.

How a water whirlpool forms

The water eddies are vertical downward movements that form underwater concentric and conical. The explanation of how and why a water whirlpool forms is explained below. It is due to causes such as:

  • The difference in speeds: as for example happens near the shores where the outgoing waves collide with the incoming waves, thus generating two speeds that face each other and form a whirlpool. These waves can appear as currents or tides; the latter influenced by the moon phase. The currents of different speeds can be generated by the collision of the water with structures such as rocks, by breaking on the marine coast or, even, by the wind.
  • Narrow channels that receive water from a larger source: when passing through this narrowing, the flow of water is reduced causing it to transit faster. Here the water collides with another stream of slower speed and generates the eddy. This is a more complex version but it follows the same principle as the speed difference origin.
  • Uneven ground: in the form of depressions around which the water is attracted and sucked. It is the most common way that a water eddy forms. Vortices form in depressions, causing the whirlpool to be more active. This activity depends on the momentum of the center.

Water eddies can occur both in seas and oceans, as well as in rivers or lakes. If you want to know more curiosities on the subject, do not hesitate to read these articles that we recommend about What is the difference between oceans and seas or Why are rivers and lakes important.

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Major water eddies

Throughout the history of mankind, all kinds of meteorological phenomena have happened that have left us in awe. The water eddies are no less. So here are some examples of the most important water eddies:

Whirlpool of the Strait of Messina

It is one of the three eddies of water biggest in the world. It is located in Italy, in the Strait of Messina. In Greek mythology, Charybdis and Scylla were sea monsters that lived on either side of the strait. They sucked and returned water while they carried the sailors who crossed there, including characters from the Odyssey. Far from Greek mythology, this monster is really the Messina whirlpool, which receives fast currents of 10 kilometers per hour. Today this strait is avoided by sailors during seasons of strong winds, full and new moons because of the risk of being sucked out.


The Bairuzú water whirlpool is neither more nor less than three eddies of water coming together to form a large one in the Paraná River, which runs through Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. This whirlpool is very violent. The movement of its waters can be heard in the distance and it has even swallowed boats. For this reason, it was part of aboriginal myths where it was believed that a giant snake fed on barges. You have registered with depths up to 57 meters, but this depends on the amount of water that the river carries.


On the shores of the Lofoten Islands in Norway, a powerful eddy called Maelström occurs twice a day, of 10 meters in diameter by 5 meters deep. It originates because two streams meet in the small Saltstraumen Strait, known to receive 400 million cubic meters of water at 40 kilometers per hour with strong tides. This results in a violent difference in currents, to which is also added a peculiar terrestrial inclination that causes high tide and low tide to join. In ancient times this eddy was a real problem for sailors, since their sailing ships were defenseless against the powerful traction force of the vortex. Travelers from the 19th century have recounted how the whirlpool destroyed ships and even killed whales. Fortunately, today's technology has made ships not so defenseless against these kinds of external causes.

There are those who use the term Maelström to refer to giant eddies of water, but it is used mostly to refer to the one that takes place in Norway.

Naruto swirls

Between the Seto Inland Sea and the Kii Channel in Japan, several eddies occur, caused by the difference in tides. They appear only with the influence of the tide by the moon, specifically with the full or new moon. During the first and summer, with the so-called king tides, they can reach a diameter of 20 meters Y speed of 20 kilometers per hour. Naruto's swirl set is one of the three largest in the world. A tourist bridge has been created around it so that the aquatic show can be appreciated from 45 meters high.

Niagara Whirlpool

This eddy occurs in the Niagara River, on the border between Canada and the United States. It was generated 4200 years ago by the erosion of the steep ground slope because of the upward water flow. The water that comes out of the Niagara Gorge on this erosion generates the eddy, which has a depth of 38 meters. The water rotates clockwise with normal water flow, but when the water is greater the direction rotates in reverse.

How to get out of a whirlpool of water

It is important that when you go out to an unknown place, you investigate as much as possible to know the particularities of the environment. Even when a water surface looks calm, a whirlpool can pull you down, so knowing its presence is vital to avoid risks. The most dangerous eddies are oceanic ones. It is essential to know how to swim if you want to enter the water with the presence of eddies, because the way to get out of it is by swimming. In simple steps, what you need to know to understand how to get out of a water whirlpool is the following:

  1. Keep calm.
  2. Take a breath as soon as possible to go through the process.
  3. Get carried away by the whirlpoolSwimming against the current will only exhaust you.
  4. Reach the lower stream of less force: thanks to letting yourself be carried away by the whirlpool. To be able to do this, you first have to increase your weight, for which you must form a ball by taking your limbs.
  5. Go down along the whirlpool of water: As you go down, you will feel that the current loses strength and will release you. This is when you can swim out of the whirlpool.
  6. Swim a short distance underwater: to surface away from the eddy and not be reintroduced.

If you want to read more articles similar to How water eddies form, we recommend that you enter our category of meteorological phenomena.

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  • Browne, M. (1997). Deadly Maelstrom's Secrets Unveiled. The New York Times.
  • Info Niagara. (2022). Niagara whirlpool. Available at:
  • Ohnaruto Bridge Uzu no Michi. (2022). Uzushio. Available at:
  • Spanish Geographical Society. (S.f.). By the routes of the Odyssey. Available at:
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