Old Sow Whirlpool – Eastport, Maine - Atlas Obscura

Old Sow Whirlpool

The largest tidal whirlpool in the Western Hemisphere. 

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Located on the international boundary between the coasts of Maine and New Brunswick, Canada, the Old Sow whirlpool has been a well known strange site for hundreds of years.

Though said to be named the “Old Sow” whirlpool because it makes sounds like the grunts like a pig, it is more likely that it was actually the “olde sough” or “old drain.” Pronounced suff, over the years the pronunciation of the Dutch word probably shifted to pronounced like “sow” (much like the word plough, pronounced pluff, turning to plow) as did the spelling and backstory of its name. (Other smaller nearby whirlpools are now known as “piglets.”)

The whirlpool is caused by the enormous tides and bathymetry of the ocean floor in the area, and while it is one of the largest in the world with a diameter of around 250 feet, however the speed of its vortex does not come close to being one of the fastest.

The water turbulence, while rarely a danger to larger boats, can be dangerous to man powered craft and exhibits some strange water phenomena, such as standing waves, “boils,” “spouts,” “troughs,” “dishes,” and “holes.”

Know Before You Go

Directly off the coast of Eastport, Maine and the tip of Deer Island, New Brunswick.

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March 22, 2010

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