Mega Maelstrom
Giant whirlpool vortex.
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(permanent link) added: 2011-08-05 04:40:23 sponsor: Soupdragon edited by: MichelleJHowe (last reply: 2014-07-20 14:44:01)

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The ships in the vortex go round and round...

The sea is always hungry.

You're sailing through the ocean on a grand ship, and the guy sitting in the crow's nest somehow doesn't see a massive vortex of water that threatens to pull you, your crew, and your ship to the bottom of the sea. Enter the most common version of the Mega Maelstrom.

The poor crew will attempt to sail around the maelstrom, through it or go straight into it if it's actually a Portal Pool.

Occasionally, the Mega Maelstrom may not even be made of water but something vortex-y that might suck in people or things around it. This version can overlap with Gravity Sucks.

In Real Life, aquatic maelstroms exist, and they are dangerous to people swimming in them as well as small boats, but they are merely two currents flowing against each other at high speed which can only cause a small funnel to form, at best. This real maelstrom doesn't actually suck you under; you might go from one fast moving stream to another, in a circle around the epicenter, or you might be eventually thrown off into safer waters.

The Ancient Greek myth of Charybdis makes this trope Older Than Feudalism.

Note that the whirlpool does not have to pose a threat to a large ship to qualify as this trope. It need only be an unrealistically large swirling maelstrom or comparatively large to one of the characters. A bathtub drain could qualify in a movie about anthropomorphic bugs, for example.

Compare Fun with Flushing, Do Not Touch the Funnel Cloud, and Inevitable Waterfall.

If the maelstrom is long-lasting enough, it can overlap with Perpetual Storm.


Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Dragon Ball Z made one of these when Freeza was thought to be dead.
  • In One Piece, this is actually exploited by the heroes once: Near the end of Enies Lobby arc, Sanji secretly sneaked out of his boat to hijack the control of the giant door on the waters they're on, causing it to slowly shut down and create giant whirlpools and water currents. The big Marine ships have difficulty on navigating through the currents, but the much smaller Straw Hat ship doesn't.
    • Additionally, the character Jinbe can be seen standing in a Mega Maelstrom in episode 450.

    Film 
  • The closing bars of Darla Dimple's Villain Song in Cats Don't Dance show Danny and Sawyer circling each other while caught in a vortex, looking appropriately scared and doomed. Fortunately, this scene exists only in Darla's mind, but it illustrates just how craven and ruthless she is in order to maintain her prima donna status at Mammoth Studios.
  • In The Final Countdown there's a time vortex that is kind of a sideways maelstrom, that literally swallows the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.
  • In The Little Mermaid, the sea witch Ursula wrestles the crown and trident away from King Triton, stirs the sea until she has formed a huge vortex, and traps Ariel on dry sea bed at its bottom. Ursula then toys with poor Ariel, who has little room to dodge deadly bolts from the trident.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean At World's End, Calypso creates a massive maelstrom that serves as the battleground for The Climax.
  • Zig Zagged in Toy Story 3: Near the end, the toys get put inside a trash machine that has scraps flowing down in a vaguely funnel shape towards a melting point with no way to climb out. They were saved by a claw machine.

    Literature 
  • The Belgariad has the Cherek Bore, a maelstrom that protects the Cherek peninsula from incursion. Chereks have developed a technique to get through it.
  • Trope Codifier is A Descent Into the Maelstrom by Edgar Allan Poe. The narrator is awed by watching the "Moskoe-strom" note , described as a gigantic whirlpool of "more than a mile in diameter", from a mountain top in the Lofoten islands. His guide, a local fisherman, then tells him a story of how he and his two brothers were sucked into the Moskoe-strom in the middle of a storm. While the fisherboat was spiralling at high speed around the edge of the funnel, the fisherman had time to observe that small, cylindrical objects were sucked slower into the funnel than other objects. By lashing himself to an empty barrel, the man managed to outlast the whirlpool and was saved, while his elder brother clung to the fishing boat and was sucked down.
  • In the Dragonlance world of Krynn, at the center of the Blood Sea of Istar lies a giant vortex known as the Maelstrom. It was created when the Gods destroyed the city of Istar during the Cataclysm. The Maelstrom constantly stirs up the soil causing the water to look red which is how the sea got its name, though the legend on Krynn was that the color was really caused by the blood of all those who died in Istar.
  • Paul the Deacon's History of the Lombards (c. 790 AD) discusses maelstroms in chapter 6. Paul believes maelstroms switch between sucking and emitting water twice a day, thus causing the tides. Especially there is huge maelstrom called "Navel of the Sea" in the North Sea and another one in the Channel near Alderney. One time, an entire fleet was sucked into this latter whirlpool, and only a single survivor managed to cling to a rock in the sea, from where he could see right down into the maelstrom. The man expected to die, when luckily the maelstrom switched from sucking to spitting and threw up the ships it had sucked in; the man managed to grab one of the ships and made it back to land.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians. The Sea of Monsters had Charybdis herself [[note: see Mythology section]].
  • Pyramid Scheme also had Charybdis herself show up.
  • At the end of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, Professor Aronnax and his friends are just trying to flee from the Nautilus in one of her skiffs, when they realize the submarine has been caught by the Lofoten maelstrom. They want to turn back, but the current rips the skiff away from the Nautilus. Professor Arronax then loses consciousness by bumping his head; when he comes to he and his friends are in safety in a fisherman's hut in the Lofoten. He doesn't know how they escaped the maelstrom, or whether the Nautilus escaped.
  • In Redwall The Bellmaker, Joseph and the other abbeydwellers encounter the Green Maelstrom at the end of the swift Roaringburn current, which is legendary for taking ships. They swing around the edge of it, but the pursuing pirate ship isn't so lucky.

    Live Action TV 
  • Mythbusters tested this. Turns out maelstroms simply can't get big enough to swallow any reasonably sized ship.
  • Once Upon a Time used several as portals between worlds.
[[folder:Mythology]]
  • Charybdis is a sea-monster that creates the Ur Example. Charybdis lives in a sea-strait, often specified as the Strait of Messina (where tidal whirlpools occur). Thrice a day, Charybdis swallows huge amounts of water and thus creates a maelstrom. After a time, it spits the water out again; afterwards there is a period of calm before Charybdis begins to swallow again.
    • In The Odyssey, Charybdis is situated under a rock which is opposite to a cliff inhabited by the sea-monster Scylla. When Odysseus sails through the strait, he stays as far away from Charybdis as possible, following Circe's advice who had warned him that not even Poseidon can save ships that are sucked into Charybdis' whirlpool. When the shipmates are watching the maelstrom in terror from a safe distance, six of them are seized and eaten by Scylla.
    Later, Odysseus' ship has been wrecked by a storm, and Odysseus is drifting on a piece of wreckage back into the strait, when Charybdis starts to suck in the sea. The raft is sucked into the whirlpool, but Odysseus manages to hold on to a branch of the large fig tree growing on the rock above Charybdis. At evening, Charybdis regurgitates the water, and the raft comes up again. Odysseus recovers it and paddles away.
    • In book 3 of The Aeneid, Aeneas' fleet of Trojan refugees draws near the Strait of Messina with the intent to pass it, when the growing current and a thundering noise make them realize at the last moment that they are approaching the infamous Charybdis. They immediately turn around and row for their lives, and, hours later and utterly exhausted, manage to escape the suction of Charybdis.
  • Norse Mythology: According to Prose Edda, King Frodi of Denmark had a magical mill called Grotti which was so huge it had to be turned by two giantesses. Grotti was robbed by the viking Mysingr, who loaded it on his ship and used it to create salt. But his greed was so great that he did not make the mill stop even when the salt was becoming too heavy, and the ship went down. The mill is still turning on the sea-bottom, making the sea salty and causing a maelstrom where the sea falls into the mill-eye.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons. The monster fish known as the Afanc could swim in circles and create a whirlpool powerful enough to suck a ship up to 60 feet long down to the bottom.

    Video Games 
  • Chrono Trigger inexplicably uses one of these to teleport you while you're on foot.
  • In Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, whirlpools are a common obstacle in the river levels. Get too close into it and you'll be sucked into the river, costing you a life.
  • Dragon's Lair's hero, Drik the Daring, at one point must pilot a rowboat along a subterranean watercourse, dodging maelstroms left and right. If Dirk times himself correctly, he can skirt the vortexes and continue downstream; otherwise, Dirk goes down the vortex to his doom.
  • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn requires that you sail your ship into one of these to get to the Bonus Dungeon.
  • Heroes of Might and Magic III's maelstroms act as maritime portals that instantly transport you to different locations on the map.
  • Pokémon can use these as a move and several appear on the maps in some games.
  • Legend of Zelda:The Wind Waker does then when you choose to teleport when at sea, or when you fight one of the giant sea octoroks.
  • In Ultima IV, getting sucked into a maelstrom while at sea gives you a Fission Mailed message and actually transports you to an otherwise unreachable location which you have to visit in order to finish the game.
  • In the Warcraft universe, there is a continent-destroying magical maelstrom between the two main continents created by elves trying to play god.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender had Katara making one of these to fight a giant sea serpent.
  • Loonatics Unleashed: The villainous aquatic mutant Adolpho from "A Creep In The Deep" episode can orchestrate sea creatures to swim in unison in order to create vortexes that swallow bridges, seaside condos and luxury liners.

    Real Life 
  • As noted in the description, Maelstroms appear all over the world, but often look rather formless as they are simply two currents crashing into each other in opposite directions. Whirlpools do exists as well, but they are not usually fast moving enough to be consider a maelstrom and are never as large as a Mega Maelstrom.
  • Moskstraumen was the inspiration for A Descent Into The Maelstrom. Other Wiki has more info on this and normal maelstroms, complete with pictures that look like nothing more than standing water!

    Other 
  • The Carta Marina of Olaus Magnus (1539) depicts a large swirl in the sea amid the Lofoten islands, captioned Hec est horrenda Caribdis ("This is the horrible Charybdis"). There is also a small ship in the middle of the maelstrom that is apparently just being sucked down.
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