THE LOFOTEN MAELSTROM

Norwegian version of this page

The Lofoten Maelstrom on the northern coast of Norway has been widely known for centuries for its strength and dangerous whirlpools. Fantasy descriptions appeared in mainstream European geographic literature in the 17th and 18th century. Contemporary Norwegian authors gave more factual descriptions based on observations. Edgar Allan Poe and Jules Verne drew information from all these sources for their celebrated stories featuring the Charybdis of the north.

The Lofoten Maelstrom, or Moskstraumen as local Norwegians call it, is located at 67 deg. 48 min. N, 12 deg. 50 min. E between The Lofoten Point (Lofotodden) and the island Værøy south west of the main chain of The Lofoten Islands. It takes its name from the small island Mosken in the centre of it.


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Lofotodden to the right with the island Mosken in the middle and Værøy in the background


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Ocean fog spills over Mosken. Mystic mountains !


New studies

Since the time of the historic literature there has been little scientific interest in the phenomenon until recently. We have reviewed the old literature and performed model simulations of this powerful current. Results are published in several papers available from this site as pdf document files.

The structure of the current can also been seen on satellite imageries:


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From the European satellite ERS1 (Wahl,1995)

Animation of the tidal wave in The Norwegian Sea:

Deep blue color represents low water and light blue high water. The tidal wave enters the Norwegian Sea from the North Atlantic Ocean north of Scotland. It propagates northeast towards the west coast of Norway and proceeds northwards along the Norwegian coast and into the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean.

Animation of the tidal current outside The Lofot Headland (Lofotodden):

The arrows show current direction and speed. Long arrows represent stronger current. The animation shows the current oscillation during a tidal cycle of 12.4 hours. Download (film, 5.8Mb).

A presentation at The Innovasjonskonferansen i Å, Lofoten 23.-24. March 2006 on Moskstraumen can also be downloaded. (pdf, 1.8Mb)

More on tidal modelling available from: THIS SITE.

This page by:

Bjørn Gjevik , <bjorng@math.uio.no>

Halvard Moe , <halvardm@math.uio.no>

Atle Ommundsen , <atleo@math.uio.no>

Last update 27 March 2006