Olaus Magnus

maelstrom Olaus Magnus
Carta Marina

The maelstrom
German print, about 1700.
The maelstrom

Writing in the eighth-century AD, the German writer, Paulus Warnefridi, alludes to a legend which claims that the "sea navel" lies somewhere in the North. What he describes is a maelstrom: "that very deep abyss of the waters which we call the ocean's navel. It is said twice a day to suck the waves into itself and spew them out again."

The enormous differences between falling and rising tides has led to the formation of dramatic ocean currents at certain locations in the North. Most renowned is the Moskenes maelstrom. Olaus Magnus had also heard of these currents, and he plotted them on his chart. He writes:
"In this locality, during the flood tide, the sea wells up within the caves and at ebb tide it falls again, with a force as powerful as when torrents or swift rivers come rushing down. As I have said, navigation upon this sea is extremely perilous, for those who sail at the wrong time are suddenly snatched down into spiraling abysses."

The American poet, Edgar Allan Poe, was obsessed by abnormal expíeriences. He has written a short story called A Descent into the Maelstrom, which deals with the Moskenes maelstrom:
"Never shall I forget the sensation of awe, horror and admiration with which I gazed about me. The boat appeared to be hanging, as if by magic, midway down, upon the interior surface of a funnel vast in circumference, prodigious in depth, and whose perfectly smooth sides might have been mistaken for ebony,..."

   © University Library of Tromsø - 1999.
The Northern Lights Route is part of The Council of Europe Cultural Routes. The Cultural Routes are an invitation to Europeans to wander the paths and explore the places where the unity and diversity of our European identity were forged.