These Waters Off The Coast Of Norway Are One Of The Most Dangerous Places In The World

The ocean can be a dangerous place, and not just because of some of the more obvious hazards like stormy weather, tsunamis, or dangerous sealife. The water itself can conspire to drag even the most skilled swimmers down or too far out for them to save themselves. For instance, in the United States, rip currents on average kill 100 people every year (via Spectrum News). Some of the strongest ocean currents in the world take the form of maelstroms or whirlpools, where water begins to spin when (among other reasons) rising and falling tides meet (via Britannica). One of the most powerful examples nearly killed "1984" author George Orwell when it capsized his boat and almost drowned him off the coast of Scotland.

Arguably the most deadly of these exists within Saltstraumen, a narrow strait that leads to a large inlet in Norway (pictured above). Here the push and pull of ocean and inlet water produces the most powerful ocean current in the world, according to Hurtigruten, and creates whirlpools that can grow over 30 feet wide as the water travels up to 20 knots (23 mph).

While not far, swimming across Saltstraumen can be very dangerous

For humans who choose to remain on land, visiting the site it is popular activity for both tourists and local fishermen, the latter appreciating it for the abundance of fish present (via World's Best Fishing Trips). Actually entering the waters themselves is a different story. Dr. Bjørn Gjevik, a Norwegian scientist who has studied the phenomenon, told The New York Times in 1997, "Many have died there, and I have heard of several accidents myself," though he was unaware of any official tally of deaths. The ocean's power is so great at this point that even ships passing through often need to wait for the periods between tides when the waters are comparatively calmer.

Diving and swimming can be done relatively safely during these intervals as well. The eider, a sea-going duck, is the only non-marine animal able to go against the full force of the tide (per Huw Cordey's "A Perfect Planet"). For more daring swimmers it is also possible to cross the strait when the water slows; while the distance is only a few hundred feet, experience and determination are still necessary for the few who've done it. In 2016 three brothers became the subject of several news outlets for being the first to swim across, per ITV, and in 2019 a mother and daughter similarly made headlines as the first women to do so (via Lynn News).