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Mega Maelstrom

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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 Swirly Energy Thingy and 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, Sea Sinkhole, Unrealistic Black Hole, and Inevitable Waterfall.

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


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Dragon Ball Z, one of these was made by the spirit bomb used to defeat Frieza.
  • 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 Jimbei can be seen standing in a Mega Maelstrom in episode 450.
  • Pokémon Generations: "The Cavern" has Kyogre creating these in addition to Hostile Weather. The island that Mossdeep City is on gets surrounded by maelstroms the size of cities. Compared to the games, even the remakes, that mostly only imply that the catastrophe would be a Great Flood, this shows that the resulting storm is far more catastrophic than that, showing that even aquatic Pokemon would suffer from the apocalyptic underwater currents generated.
  • Uzumaki features whirlpools from the beginning. They start out as small eddies in rivers, but by the end, they're large enough to swallow boats. An unusually large example near the end pulls several full-sized ships to the bottom of the ocean when they're sent to rescue the people of Kurozu-cho.

  • 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.

    Comic Books 
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): In issue 32 Wonder Woman rescues a badly damaged ship from a giant whirlpool that opened up and started trying to suck it to the ocean floor without warning.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): During The Contest the final challenge is a race with a number of magical obstacles the contestants are not warned about. The first is a giant maelstrom that sucks in all the contestants but Venelia, who managed to finish the swimming portion before it really got going. Artemis gets her first on panel rescue pulling Mala from the treacherous waters.
  • Aquaman: This has been one of Aquaman's signature moves since the 1960s. Notably, in a silver age comic where he's facing off with Black Manta, he swims around in circles so fast that he creates a giant whirlpool that grows in size to take out his assailants.

    Fan Works 
  • Cardcaptor Rad: In her first attempt to take Rachel out, the Watery a giant whirpool under the dock where she and Alexis are.
  • The Pirate Pegasus:
    • The mares encounter one in Siren's Gulch with a giant squid in the center. Spike manages to escape the whirlpool though by using the water current to force their ship over a cliffside wall.
    • Craig later drives their ship into another maelstrom. This one, however, leads to an underground cavern system that quickly takes them to Thieves' Hold.
  • Ripples in the Pond: A gigantic whirlpool opens up in front of the Straw Hats in chapter 12, even going so far as to shift itself so that it goes directly underneath them.

    Film — Animated 
  • Cats Don't Dance: The closing bars of Darla Dimple's Villain Song 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.
  • The Little Mermaid (1989): 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.
  • 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're saved by a claw machine.

    Film — Live-Action 

  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: At the end, 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.
  • The Belgariad has the Cherek Bore, a town-sized maelstrom in the strait that connects the Gulf of Cherek to the Sea of the Winds, protecting the Cherek peninsula from incursion. Chereks have developed a technique to get through it, but any outsider would be crazy to try.
  • A Chorus of Dragons: The Maw is an immense vortex created when ocean currents run into the islands around Zherias, and lies rather inconveniently in the middle of what would otherwise be a prime shipping lane. It's surrounded by smaller whirlpools, called its Fangs, which are each large enough to wreck a ship. Its central funnel, the Throat, is a mile across and impossibly powerful and dangerous — not even a kraken can survive being drawn into it.
  • A Descent Into the Maelstrom, by Edgar Allan Poe, is the Trope Codifier. 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.
  • Dragonlance: 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.
  • The Faerie Queene: The Quicksand of Unthriftyhed and Whirlpoole of Decay are giant aquatic hazards capable of sucking giant ships filled with precious cargo into them to be lost forever. Metaphorically, each represents the inability of riches to persist due to a lack of frugality or the mere passage of time.
  • The Grace of Kings: The physical manifestation of the God of Chaos Tazu is a vast whirlpool that moves erratically through the Kishi Channel, drowning any ship in its path. By sacrificing 20 000 prisoners to the whirlpool, Matu Zyndu not only wins safe passage for his own army but entices Tazu to consume his enemy's ships instead.
  • 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, but 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.
  • The Inheritance Cycle: In Eldest, Roran and the Carvahall villagers are attempting to escape the Empire by sailing to Surda, but are pursued by three sloops. In a desperate attempt to evade the sloops, Roran and Uthar, despite their fear, run through a maelstrom called the Boar's Eye, formed by two opposite tidal currents that go between two islands southwest of the Empire. They succeed in getting through it due to the sheer amount of manpower available on the boat. The sloops... not so much.
  • Land of Oz: In The Scarecrow of Oz, Cap'n Bill and Trot get pulled into Oz by way of a freak summer maelstrom.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters had Charybdis herself, a vast maw that sucks in the sea and spits it back out three times per day.
  • Pyramid Scheme had Charybdis herself show up.
  • Redwall: In 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.
  • Trash of the Count's Family: The whirlpools off the coast of the Ubarr territory are unnaturally huge and incredibly dangerous.
  • In The Vazula Chronicles, one of Vazula's protections from outsiders is a giant whirlpool a few miles away from the island. When Heath, Bianca, and Brody travel to the island on a ship staffed by a non-magic-using captain and crew, they almost get sucked into the whirlpool. Bianca summons wind to blow them away from the whirlpool and Brody makes the seaweed form ropes to pull the ship to safety. Merletta also visits the whirlpool during her second year test, and finds that it goes all the way down to the ocean floor.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Mythbusters tested this. Turns out maelstroms simply can't get big enough to swallow any reasonably sized ship. In fact, in order to achieve the speed necessary for a true ship-swallowing maelstrom, the water would have to be moving faster than the speed of sound.
  • Once Upon a Time uses several as portals between worlds.
  • Surface: One episode has a boat get sucked into a mega-maelstrom that was created by the show's monsters burrowing up into the lake from deep underground.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Classical 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.
    • The Aeneid: In book 3, 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.

    Other Sites 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Ars Magica is set in a "Mythic Europe" where All Myths Are True, including supernaturally vast maelstroms that can suck ships down to the ocean floor. They're incredibly lucrative sources of Mana... all the more so, the closer a mage can get to their deadly core.
  • Banestorm: A maelstrom is located off the southern coast of al-Haz. Its location means that ships heading from any of the regions to the north can enter al-Haz but can't make it further west to the Lands of the Djinn and beyond, nor can anyone from the west head eastward to al-Haz in that direction.
  • Cerulean Seas: The global ocean's biggest whirlpools can reach 2,000 feet in diameter.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • 1st Edition Fiend Folio. The monster fish known as the Afanc can swim in circles and create a whirlpool powerful enough to suck a ship up to 60 feet long down to the bottom.
    • 2nd Edition Mystara Monstrous Compendium Appendix. The type of Worm known as the Marine Leviathan can swim in circles for three minutes and create a whirlpool 100 feet wide at the top, 200 feet deep, and 50 feet wide at the bottom.
    • 3rd Edition, water elementals and similar creatures could create large maelstroms while underwater. High level spellcasters could create similar effects with magic.
  • Salvage Hidden Treasures has the "Maelstrom" event, which allows the player to relocate any tile anywhere in the sea.
  • Warhammer:
    • Far-traveling ogres claim that the Great Maw, a vast fanged pit that they worship as a god, has a twin at the other end of the world in the form of a tooth-lined whirlpool that constantly swallows the ocean and devours any unlucky ships that stray nearby.
    • Dreadfleet: At the centre of the Galleon's Graveyard, a Pocket Dimension that draws ships and wrecks from the world's seas into itself, is the Maelstrom, a massive whirlpool that eventually sucks in and consumes everything within the Graveyard. The final game of the narrative campaign takes place around the Maelstrom and has special rules to represent all the ships taking part being slowly sucked towards the centre of the whirlpool where they will be destroyed.

    Video Games 
  • Chrono Trigger inexplicably uses one of these to teleport you while you're on foot.
  • 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, Dirk 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.
  • For the King: One of the possible Random Encounters at sea is a large whirlpool that damages your boat on a failed skill test. Due to the Overworld Not to Scale effect, it could be anywhere from boat- to town-sized.
  • Golden Sun:
    • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn requires that you sail your ship into one of these to get to the Bonus Dungeon.
    • Golden Sun: The Lost Age: Lemuria is hidden behind a series of whirlpools and currents (and Poseidon). To get past them, you need to remember a children's song that explains how many times you need to go around each whirlpool.
  • Heroes of Might and Magic III's maelstroms act as maritime portals that instantly transport you to different locations on the map, if you don't object that part of your army will fall overboard and drown.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker does then when you fight one of the giant sea octoroks.
  • In Paper Mario: Color Splash, one of these sits permanently off the coast of Vortex Island, giving it its name. This whirlpool is actually artificially created: It is energy leaked off from the Parallel World that manifests in the Normal World in the form of that vortex. The source of that energy is an absurdly powerful washing machine that, due to the bizarre weather of the Parallel World, is perpetually in use.
  • Pokémon: Water-types can use Whirlpool as a move, creating a large vortex that traps their opponent and causes them damage each turn; it's especially damaging if used on an opponent that's using Dive. Several vortexes also appear on the maps in some games, blocking passages, and can be cancelled out by a Mon using Whirlpool out of battle.
  • Sea of Thieves: Large vortexes are common, and if a ship gets too close the gale-force winds throw the wheel into a chaotic spin that changes direction on a whim, and it somehow plays havoc on your compass as well. And it rains. Constantly. So constantly that a ship can and will sink from overflow, not even counting the chance that lightning will blast a hole in the hull.
  • Sunless Sea: A handful of giant whirlpools appear scattered around the Zee. They impede the ship's movements, pulling them to their center, and cause slow damage to their hull.
  • Super Mario 64: The underwater vortex in Dire, Dire Docks is a One-Hit Kill if Mario strays too close. Two of the Power Stars require the player to venture near it.
  • Ultima:
  • 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.
  • Ultima III requires you to sail into a maelstrom to reach Ambrosia, the lands Beneath the Earth.
  • The Warcraft universe has the Maelstrom, a massive version of this near the center of the world, created from a well of magic that led to the sundering of a Pangaea-like supercontinent. The Maelstrom helped keep the continent of Kalimdor hidden from the Eastern Kingdoms due to the danger of sailing past it. It has been somewhat tamed since, and the shamans of the world have established a base in the jagged rocks that surround it, but it's still a huge and dangerous whirlpool.

    Web Original 
  • Pirates SMP: A giant whirlpool is located northwest of the Isles, far bigger than any of the pirates' boats. After Martyn first discovers it on Day 29, several investigations have been conducted on it by various cast members in the week that follows; this culminates into the server event "In Too Deep" on Day 36, where the cast sail out to the Whirlpool in search of a missing cast member, are either pulled into the Whirlpool or decide to jump in after their friends and family, and find a vast network of underground Urban Ruins deep below the surface.
  • Unsounded: When Minnow upsets the Jarla waterwomen tribe they create a maelstrom to catch her while she's swimming, then use it to pull her up into a funnel cloud above to question and threaten her before dumping her back in the river.
  • The very final episode of Wonderlab features Distorted Catt opening up a whirlpool portal within the pink liquid they've created. Catt then proceeds to jump into this portal, taking the Abnormalities with them.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Katara defeats a giant Sea Serpent by waterbending a maelstrom large enough to suck it down.
  • Dragons: Riders of Berk: The Submaripper is a large, aquatic dragon that hunts by inhaling hard enough to create a massive whirlpool. To make things worse, said whirlpool can drag down flying dragons that aren't even touching the water.
  • 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.
  • My Little Pony 'n Friends: In "The Ghost of Paradise Estate, Part 4", when Megan uses the flash stone to clear away the flood, the water forms into a huge whirlpool as it's drained away. This proves strong enough to seize Squirk and Crank in its current and drag them down and away to an unknown fate.

    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 exist as well, but they are not usually fast moving enough to be considered a maelstrom and are never as large as a Mega Maelstrom.
  • Moskstraumen was the inspiration for A Descent Into The Maelstrom. The Other Wiki has more info on this and normal maelstroms, complete with pictures— although they don't look quite as impressive as they do in movies!
  • Leave it to humans to create the condition that actually does result in a Mega Maelstrom by accidentally drilling for oil into a salt mine underneath a shallow lake. The inflowing water dissolved the salt, widening the drain until the entire lake and parts of the surrounding countryside disappeared into an enormous whirlpool.
  • The closest thing to a naturally-occurring real life instance of this trope is probably the whirlpool located in the Gulf of Corryvreckan, off Scotland. While not the largest maelstrom in the world (that record goes to the aforementioned Moskstraumen), it has a reputation for being the most dangerous, and is classified as an extreme maritime hazard by the Royal Navy. In one experiment, a dummy fitted with a depth gauge was thrown into the vortex and pulled down to a depth of over 800 feet. George Orwell was nearly killed by it in 1947.


Video Example(s):


Eddy River Whirlpool

A massive whirlpool in the Eddy River that sucks the raft in.

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Example of:

Main / MegaMaelstrom

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