A sight to make all river-runners quake in fear.

The title of this post does not refer to an empty crate of beer two days into a week long expedition trip. This is a video of a whirlpool on a Latvian river a couple of years ago. Whirlpools happen when two conflicting currents  create a funnel effect. Anything taken into a whirlpool will be sucked down to the bottom and out along the floor of the river. So if it’s a deep river and you’re in a kayak, down you go.

Which is exactly what happened to a kayaker on the White Nile when I was working there. It was a big water day, three gates, and just before the lunch spot we had to navigate through a section of tiny islands. There were no rapids to speak of, just moving currents. But they were ferociously strong and very deceptive. What appeared to be a ripple on the water sucked the entire back end of my raft down. I held on by immediately threading my arm through the outside line and hanging on for dear life. The kayaker wasn’t so lucky. All he could do was ditch his paddle and wrap his arms in a bear-hug around his boat, his head resting on the front deck, all the while praying that his skirt wouldn’t pop. He spent around a minute underwater in his boat the whole time, which as we know has a fair bit of buoyancy.

Anyway, here’s the Latvian video. It gets interesting after the 4 minute mark.

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