The Weirdness of the Sea

We all know there are many strange natural wonders.   I’ve just run across an article, “5 Weird Ocean Phenomena” (, that lists some of the waterborne variety you may never have heard of.

1. St. Elmo’s Fire — When a sharp object, like a ship’s mast, contacts a very high electrical field, as in a thunderstorm, electrons can glow in colors, similar to a neon sign.  Sailors have named this rare phenomenon St. Elmo’s Fire, inspired by a patron saint of sailors, St. Erasmus of Formia.

2. Fog tsunami (pictured)– What appears to be a giant tsunami bearing down on a beach is actually a massive fog bank.  This usually occurs in late spring or early summer, when condensation from warm air merges with cool ocean water.

3. Meteotsunami — Meteotsunamis are caused by air-pressure disturbances that usually come with fast-moving weather systems.  The result can be ocean waves that travel at the same speed as the overhead weather system.   A meteotsunami can become dangerous when it encounters shallow water, which causes it to slow down and increase in height and intensity, just like earthquake-generated tsunamis.

4. Waterspout — A waterspout is a spinning column of air and mist that can appear on lakes, rivers, and at sea.  There are two types: fair weather and tornadic, which are simply tornadoes that form over water, or move from land to water.  While tornadic waterspouts develop downward in a thunderstorm, a fair weather waterspout develops on the surface of the water and works its way upward, and usually move very little.

5. Maelstrom (pictured) — A great plot device for sailing stories, a maelstrom is a strong whirlpool that forms when opposing currents meet.  the term is derived from the Dutch words malen (to whirl or grind) and strom (stream), and just like the stories, they can be dangerous.

The photos came from the article.



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