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Old Sow is the largest tidal whirlpool in the Western Hemisphere, located off the southwestern shore of Deer Island, New Brunswick, Canada, and off the northeast shore of Moose Island, the principal island of Eastport, Maine.

According to mythical etymology the name "Old Sow" is derived from "pig-like" noises the whirlpool makes when churning; however, a more likely origin is the word "sough" (pronounced "suff"), defined as a "drain", or a "sucking sound". Early settlers to the area may easily have mispronounced "sough", as "sow" (rhyming with "cow") due to its similar spelling to other words with "sow-sound" endings, such as "plough".

The whirlpool is caused by local bathymetry and extreme tidal range where waters exchange between Passamaquoddy Bay and the Bay of Fundy, combined with the unusual topography of the location's sea floor at the confluence of the numerous local currents.

The whirlpools form in an area with a diameter of approximately 250 feet/75 metres, as determined by the president of the Old Sow Whirlpool Survivors' Association in 1997 by way of an aerial photograph.[1] The photograph was calibrated using the Deer Island Point Light beacon tower of known width that was included in the photograph.

Old Sow is one of five significant whirlpools worldwide [according to whom?] (Corryvreckan, Scotland; Saltstraumen, Norway; Moskstraumen, Norway; and Naruto, Japan are the others). Although the tidal currents within Western Passage surrounding Old Sow compare with faster whirlpools elsewhere, the speed of Old Sow's vortex is considerably slower than Moskstraumen, the world's most powerful whirlpool.

Tremendous water turbulence occurs locally in the greater Old Sow area, but it does not usually constitute a navigation hazard for motorized vessels with experienced operators at the helm; however, small craft — especially vessels with keels (sailboats) and human-powered vessels — are warned to avoid these waters when the tide is running.

Besides Old Sow and its numerous "piglets" (small and medium whirlpools surrounding Old Sow), other area phenomena include standing waves, upwellings (that on rare occasion may even spout several feet into the air), and 10- to 17-foot-deep or more, circular and trench-shaped depressions in the water.

The failed Passamaquoddy Tidal Power Project/"Quoddy Dam" Project saw a series of tidal dikes constructed during the 1930s to connect Moose Island (Eastport, Maine) to Carlow Island (in Eastport), Carlow Island to Pleasant Point and to connect Treat Island (in Eastport) to Dudley Island (in Lubec, Maine). The changes in local water flow from the dikes reportedly reduced predictability of the "funnel" effect of Old Sow.


  1. ^ http://www.oldsowwhirlpool.com/vortex.htm

External links[edit]

44°55′26″N 66°59′12″W / 44.923852°N 66.986561°W / 44.923852; -66.986561Coordinates: 44°55′26″N 66°59′12″W / 44.923852°N 66.986561°W / 44.923852; -66.986561

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Sow_whirlpool — Please support Wikipedia.
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The Old Sow, Eastport, Maine

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4 news items

Bangor Daily News
Tue, 08 Dec 2009 18:20:17 -0800

The area of Old Sow whirlpool lies directly between the two locations. Kevin Steeves, 34, of Quispamsis, New Brunswick, was “recreational diving” with a partner early Monday when the two became separated. The partner notified Halifax Regional Search ...
Wed, 24 Mar 2010 15:08:35 -0700

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 ...
Quoddy Tides
Tue, 17 Sep 2013 10:26:15 -0700

Three divers who got caught in the Old Sow whirlpool off Deer Island Point were very lucky that the local ferry was passing nearby and that the fog had just lifted so that they could be spotted in their distress. The Deer Island/Eastport ferry, the ...
Lexington Herald Leader
Sat, 03 Sep 2011 22:48:45 -0700

The Jolly Breeze took us across the aquamarine waters of the Bay of Fundy, beyond the churning eddies of Old Sow whirlpool and the beacon of East Quoddy Lighthouse to a playground of feeding whales. "I can pretty much guarantee that at this time of ...

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