Endless Blue – Week 50 – The Recurring Storm: The Maelstrom   3 comments

Meteorology

The Recurring Storm: The  Maelstrom

The skies of Elqua are a tranquil swath of blue, should any piscean throw aside their generations of fear and simply glimpse above the surf.  Occasional languid streaks of cloud break up the hypnotizing expanse of cyan above that mirrors the undulating endless blue below.  Storms are rare, with precipitation falling across the dotted isles like sudden, soft breezes.  But not all the weather is kind, and the exists a strange mega-storm that has raked the world for as long as there has been water — the Maelstrom.

This huge hurricane that has persisted on the face of the world for millennia, slowly dragging around the planet in a haphazard, drunken course.  Its direction at the whim of currents, both air and sea, it meanders across the globe, making one revolution every year.  So regular is this rotation that there is one additional week added to the Elquan calendar, specifically signifying the one constant speck of behavior the natives can predict, namely the five days that the Maelstrom crosses the shallow shoals known as the Creche of Civilization.  Except for that foreseeable week, the tempest defies charting, its course never the same except for the inevitable period where it seems determined to traverse the Creche of Civilization.

Anatomy of a Tempest

Study of the Maelstrom is foolishness to the extreme.  The sheer size of the hurricane’s whirling shape, the flensing winds capable of flaying flesh from bone, its torrential currents whipping the breath of water from the gills.  No fearless piscean could go near it; no sane one would want to.  But if a soul dared, if a solitary inquisitive mind-set itself to study the esoteric cyclone, what they might espy would forever haunt and humiliate them.

There, towering over the scattered islands and volcanic outcropping hovers a discus so immense it astonishingly stretches across a whole eight degrees of longitude.  Its cyclonic winds scrabbling at the air, stealing the moisture in the form of faint wisps of water vapor, its hungry gyre swallowing them greedily.  If not for the collection of these few streaks of opacity over the geologic history of Elqua, the Maelstrom would be invisible in the Vastness.  Due to the scarcity of haze and fog, the Maelstrom does not blanket the atmosphere in a thick coating of cloud.  Instead, the storm is naked, bared to the dark, ever-present night that glowers in the deep Vastness beyond the blue world of water.  If any piscean could look down from there and gaze back at the planet of their origin, they would see the strangest sight… an octagon of churning weather on the face of Elqua.

The Octagon on Elqua

The funnel cloud sprawls from the reaches of the upper atmosphere down to the rolling surface of the world’s ocean,  where the sub-aqueous portion then breaks through the tumultuous waves, plunging below to the bottom of the abyssal floor.  The nadir of the hurricane drags across the ocean floor, sifting through the silt of the seabeds, up turning natural undersea flora and muddying the currents in its devastating wake.

The turbulence, the chaos created by the storm agitates the waters, inserting random variance and kinetic potential into the placid waters of Elqua.  Perhaps that very same disturbance of the waters gave life the spark of impetus to evolve from the primordial oceans.  Maybe it brought about the impetus for the direly needed variation in weather that the shallow ocean basin of the waterworld required to foster the diversification of life, to bolster its spread from out of the safe haven of the Creche of Civilization and outward into the Endless Blue.  For as much damage and woe that the tempest illicit, the rampaging force of nature may have brought about the existence of higher life on Elqua.

The storm front known as the Maelstrom is not a single hurricane, but in truth a group of eight smaller twisters, themselves rotating into a greater tempest.  Eddies in the atmosphere from the conglomerated storms forms an octagonal shape.  The barometric shear blurs the outward currents together, and with the bulge of each individual storm’s eye enforcing the shape, appears as an octogram.

Wave-like instabilities crept up, rogue eddies circulating, tempest-tossed spirals trapped between the tranquil waters within the Maelstrom’s eye and the faster current streams counter-rotating around the storm.  These form the geometric outline of the tempest’s whorled winds.

The eye of the Maelstrom — the column of low pressure air around which the cyclonic gyre spirals — is calm and clear of cloud cover.  The waters are strangely still, a twenty-five mile wide limpid pool of water that seems to float across the globe as if cradled in the massive hands of the storm.  The surrounding whirlwinds reach up to 200 miles per hour, but the silence in the eye is eerily quiet, as if the air itself were petrified and unmovable.  The pooled water here dips a few feet lower than sea level outside the Maelstrom, and looking up from this vantage point has the viewer gazing through a humongous tunnel of shadowed clouds, its walls silently spinning and undulating downward as the eye of the beholder slowly pans upward for miles, until it finally breaks out into a tiny circle of pale blue.  If not for the fearsome forces screaming around the eye like a banshee, the eye would actually be quite serene.

It’s rotation is in a constant counter streamwise direction — always rotating to the left — while it’s component storms always turn streamwise — to the right.  This flies in the face of reason and scientific observation, as every other storm, be it hurricane or tornado, will alternate its rotation depending on the hemisphere of origin.  This Coriolis effect has been documented in whirlpools and other gyres, and hearsay asserts it should apply equally to the raging storms of the Vastness.  Despite the verification of this phenomenon, it is blatantly defied by the massive Maelstrom.

The Path of Strife

There is no mean, median, or usual path for the Maelstrom’s advance across the face of the globe.  It only has the most vague of limits, the most ephemeral of laws.  Foremost among those is the fact that it always, always travels along the surface of the water, never making landfall or cutting across dry land.  And despite whatever whim or variance the storm has followed, it will always return to the Creche of Civilization for the five days that mark the passing of one year and the birth of another.

“Bigger torrents have smaller torrents,
That leech off their strife;
And little torrents form stable currents,
a stressful way of life…”
The Recurring Storm, Introduction.

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