Narrow Escapes in Literature

Curl up under a blanket and enjoy these whirlpool-inspired excerpts from works by Poe, Verne, Homer and others. Hot chocolate is recommended.

There is something primal and terrifying about the prospect of being sucked into the depths of the sea. Many writers have capitalized on this base fear by conjuring up the power of the sea to create vivid and horrifying literature. We have excerpted a few of the best stories for your enjoyment. Hydrophobics beware.

The Ballad of the Corrievreckan

Sir Ian Malcolm, the 17th Laird and Chieftan of Poltalloch in Scotland and author of several books, including Highland Lore and Legend (1938), was inspired by the sight of the Corrievreckan whirlpool, which could be seen from his ancestral home at Duntrune castle, to write the "The Ballad of the Corrievreckan."

A Descent Into the Maelström

While he had never even seen a whirlpool, Edgar Allan Poe used scientific writings and his imagination to create "A Descent Into the Maelström," a terrifying tale of tragedy in a whirlpool.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Jules Verne couldn't resist the pull of the whirlpool when he needed a climactic finale to his novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

The Odyssey

Odysseus had his own encounter with a whirlpool known as Charybdis. The great orator Homer was keen to capitalize on the destructive potential of this natural occurrence in his epic account of Odysseus's voyage.

George Orwell: A Life

The author of Animal Farm and 1984, George Orwell, had a close call with the Corryvreckan whirlpool. His nephew told this harrowing tale of near death to a newspaper reporter.

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