Whirlpools and waterspouts

With Pacific Voyages, I like to go with the BIG stories. But many of the wonders of the Pacific and the oceans everywhere are smaller stories. This is one of those small stories.

I wish that waterspouts lifted three-masted brigs into the air depositing them on mountain tops. I wish whirlpools dropped pirate ships to the seafloor as mermaids watched them from their watery world. Alas, none of this happens—even if these wonders of nature do exist.

Perhaps if you are a tiny pirate in a paper boat you could be in trouble, but other than that you simply have two less things to worry about.

Whirlpools can result when opposing currents merge. Small whirlpools form when a bath or a sink is draining due to the Coriolis Effect, a result of the rotation of the earth. More powerful ones in seas or oceans are called maelstroms. In narrow ocean straits with fast flowing water, whirlpools are often caused by tides. And yes, they do go the wrong way round if you are biased to your side of the equator.

So what happens if you are exactly on the equator and you pull the plug. This remarkable video has the answer.

Waterspouts are another story. They are tornados at sea. But because the forces are greatly reduced from those on land they generally don’t do much damage, unless you’re in a small boat and then it is theoretically possible they could haul your be-hind into the sky like a waterlogged Dorothy and Toto—but unlikely.

This is more or less a victory lap marking a year’s worth of articles. My able partner Ryan Sport is responsible for the amazing look. Jim Warren and Margaret MacNiven’s edits keep me from looking too much the fool and I, your humble scribe, Jamis—write the copy.

I thought that after a year I might run low on ideas but it is quite the opposite. I have more in the hopper and I can keep going as long as you can.

Coming up this year are stories about:

—James Lick, the richest man in California from 1848 to 1876, a place with very rich people.

—The great San Francisco Diamond hoax, my favorite story about how gullible folks can be.

—Lord Howe Island, the one place in the Pacific where the European didn’t ruin the culture because until the British came no one had ever lived there.

—Borneo, it’s more than just orangutans and blow guns with poison darts.

—The first Peoples of Australia and 15 ways the land and sea will try to kill you.

—Waikiki, they imported the beach from California. I have the photos.

—Santa Monica Bay and the anchor-out gambling ships of the 1920s.

—Saipan, part of the Commonwealth of the USA. Commonwealth, whhhat?

—Three places with islands in lakes on islands in lakes.

And plenty more.

And here is your Easter Egg:  My new favorite film is Zerograd. It was made in the Soviet Union in 1989 and I’m simply astounded that this got completed. I’m now working my way through the director’s other work and it is full of surprises.

Here is the full video. For some reason youtube will not let me embed this but trust me, it’s worth a look: youtube.com/watch?v=zbT53Q_olkU

There is an English subtitle option. I’d love to hear your review.

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  • Tony A.... says:

    Never seen a film quite like it -surreal and you could say without purpose -yet you can’t stop watching it. Like to see what else this director has done

  • Tyler MacNiven says:

    Which direction does the water flow if you are in the dead center of the earth?

    • Tyler MacNiven says:

      Not the equator…but the dead center of the earth. If there is a hollow cavity in the center of the earth would you float in the middle?

  • Leigh F. says:

    This film lies somewhere among Fellini, Monte Python and Hotel California…I wonder if there are subtleties in the language that don’t come across in the translation. Time to watch it again and try to figure out where he stepped out of reality and into insanity. This time I will stop and start so I can really look at the breathing wax figures and what is going on in the background of every shot. I really want it to make some kind of sense. But I think that is never to be found.
    Thank you for blowing my tiny mind.

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