What Is the Largest Whirlpool?

The largest known whirlpool in the world is created by a giant underwater volcano. This deep-sea “current blender” can be found off of Japan’s coast and has been spotted as far away as Hawaii. It’s nearly two miles wide, with water currents that reach speeds of more than 40 feet per second. With waves reaching heights of up to 100 feet, only the most experienced divers dare enter this dangerous vortex.

The Biggest Whirlpool in the World

Moskstraumen

A whirlpool with a diameter of 130 to 160 feet produces a surface water ripple of up to 3 feet. Moskstraumen are caused by many factors, including tides, strong winds, the location of the Lofotodden Falls, and underwater topography.

A new study published in Nature Geoscience highlights details about how these enormous oceanic vortices form and grow over time through an analysis of satellite data from 1982 to 2016—the first such study of its kind.

In 1982, an enormous vortex with a diameter measuring nearly 60 miles was spotted in the Sea of Japan off the coast of Japan. The whirlpool—officially named the Kurushima Kaikyo—is located at the end of a strait connecting two other large bodies of water, the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean. The second-largest whirlpool in the world is found in Brazil’s Amazon River, which has an estimated width of almost 37 miles.

Our research provides the first satellite-based detailed analysis of how these oceanic whirlpools form, evolve and decay,” says Silvano Onofri , lead author of the study. This is fundamental knowledge that will allow us to understand the impact of these vortices on ecosystems, fisheries, and marine traffic.

The researchers at Yale and MIT have found that these whirlpools can form in a matter of days, reaching their peak size in just a week’s time. Although they appear to die out after roughly six months, the team has observed them returning to the same locations several years later. Scientists believe this might be due to the formation of sea ice, which can alter the flow of warm and cold water in a way that makes whirlpools appear once again.

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