April 22, 2022 0 Comments Boating

The most dangerous water for ships to navigate

While certain parts of the great blue ocean have clearly been identified as the most dangerous waters in the world, some believe that climate change has further contributed to the already extreme conditions. Here are our top four most dangerous waters for ships:

Most dangerous waters for ships 

1 – Bay of Biscay

Some of the fiercest weather conditions of the Atlantic Ocean can be witnessed in Biscay Bay. This gulf, located on the northern coast of Spain and the western coast of France, is named after the Spanish province of Biscay. Its unique position attracts powerful winds, and the shallow sea bed produces heavy wave motion. As winter begins and the weather worsens, depressions cause severe weather at sea and constant rain along the shores, making it one of the most dangerous seas for ships on the planet. 

Seamen have always feared the Bay of Biscay. There have been several incidents reported of merchant vessels losing direction in Biscay storms. In a few unfortunate instances, lives have been lost as a result. However, with improved ships, technology and marine stabilizers – which can make cruising even the most treacherous seas a more comfortable experience –  the number of incidents have been reduced.

Occasionally powerful windstorms form if the pressure in the area falls rapidly, travelling along the Gulf Stream at great speed, resembling a hurricane and finally crashing in the bay with their maximum power. There is also the phenomenon of June Gloom, a large fog triangle that can fill the southern half of the bay. Many experienced seafarers have lost their way because of this foggy wasteland. 

2 – Cook Strait 

Considered to be one of the most dangerous and unpredictable waters in the world for yachts, the Cook Straight is subject to belts of strong wind that circle the globe known as the Roaring Forties. These strong, unpredictable winds produce large waves and the Cook Strait “wind tunnel” effect. The tide elevations at the ends of the strait are out of phase with one another, resulting in vessels being pelted by high water on one side and low water on the other. The Cook Strait can be found between the North and South Islands of New Zealand. It connects the Tasman Sea on the northwest with the South Pacific Ocean on the southeast. 

The ocean flow in this area is further complicated by submarine ridges running off from the coast. A southerly gale can blow up a big swell very quickly, and there is a phenomenon called the Kaori Rip, a patch of unnatural water where the wind and seas meet the tide head-on. That is when boats, big and small, usually find themself in dangerous territory and have an extremely rough trip.

3 – Drake Passage

This is one of the world’s most renowned stormy seas, also known as the “Sea of Hoces.” This 800 km wide passage is the shortest crossing from Antarctica to the rest of the world, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans between Cape Horn and the South Shetland Islands. There is no large landmass anywhere at the latitudes of the Drake Passage and an unrestricted flow of current carrying a vast volume of water through it. Combine this with the region’s naturally high wind speeds, frequently rough waters and risk of icebergs, and you are left with the stormy reputation of the Drake Passage.

It used to be considered the most dangerous sea for ship passage globally, with sailing vessels taking weeks just to round the Horn. Even today, rounding Cape Horn is still considered a major accomplishment by modern sailors. Violent, chaotic, notorious and unpredictable are all words used to describe this sea passage where more than 20,000 sailors have unfortunately lost their lives.

4 – Irminger Sea 

The Irminger Sea is situated south of the Denmark Strait and separates Iceland from the east coast of Greenland by 250 miles of rough water. It is thought to be the windiest stretch of saltwater on the globe and one of the stormiest and most dangerous places in the world. 

The Irminger Sea gets hammered by storms, powerfully complex currents and convoluted seafloor topography, and much about the sea remains unknown to modern scientists. Along with all of this, the Irminger Sea is also home to the marginal ice zone, the transition region from the open ocean, visible in dark blue, to the white sea ice. These small pieces of sea ice, known as ice floes, trace out the ocean currents beneath, resulting in a large swirl-like feature of approximately 120 km in diameter that can even be seen from space. 

Interestingly the sea is a narrow passage on the doorstep of the Arctic Circle and is a bottleneck on the “superhighway” of the oceans’ global circulation. It is the main route for waters flowing south from the Arctic Ocean to the North Atlantic Ocean.

There can be no question that the world’s most dangerous waters for ships prove challenging for even the most experienced seamen. What other dangerous waters would you add to our guide?