Video: Pinging the Depths of the Most Dangerous Stretch of Water in the World

I spent today catching up on housework, so today’s post is a video about the Strid at Bolton Abbey. This is a section of the River Wharfe where the river basically turns on its side. It becomes very narrow, and very, very deep. It’s often called the most dangerous river in the world, and while the sheer number of dead probably doesn’t support that, the history of the river does. Basically, if you fall in, you do not come out alive, and you’re not guaranteed to come out at all. The current is strong, and flows through caves as well as the main channel, and it has historically been difficult to get a clear notion of the Strid’s depth. This fellow on Youtube got a little sonar ball to see what he could find, and his equipment measured the Strid at 65 meters deep. For my fellow USians, that’s about 213 feet. That’s the height of a 20-story building, while being a couple meters wide.

I really hope, some day soon, someone is able to make a digital model of the Strid, because I’d love to see what it actually looks like down there.

Edit: I had missed a later video by the same fellow, which gave a slightly shallower reading of 56 meters, which is still astonishingly deep, for such a narrow bit of water.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    I landed near it once, and have visited a couple of times as it’s less than an hour’s drive from where I lived until a couple of years ago.

    Standing next to it is incredibly intimidating. At its narrowest point it is self evidently a trivial matter to simply jump over it. You don’t need to be Bob Beamon – any adult that can sprint for five yards would be able to simply hop over with minimal run up. Except… hardly anybody does. It’s a strange experience. It’s a testament to how downright weird it is that nobody has been able to even guess at its depth until recently – we found the Titanic before anyone had even a cursory look down there.

  2. says

    Yeah. The youtuber looked into arranging a scuba dive in there, but found it to be cost-prohibitive as things stand. I’d be worried that the force of all that water moving would make injury almost unavoidable, but I know next to nothing about diving.

  3. sonofrojblake says

    cost-prohibitive as things stand

    Cost prohibitive for a youtuber. Any one of the people who were on the Titan last weekend could pay for a whole team to go down there and take a look out of the change they’ve lost down the back of their couch.

    See – this is one reason among many that I have contempt for billionaires. I can IMMEDIATELY, off the top of my head, think of fifty better things to do with a billion quid than go and take another in-person look at a mass grave that others have looked at before. And yes, “solving all world hunger” is on the list, but “exploring and mapping the Strid by scuba” is, too. How does one go about motivating someone sufficiently rich to finance such an effort, I wonder? I mean – unlike the proposed “mission” of the Titan (go look at a globally-famous and well-known wreck, again), this would be a legit world-first, a trip to a place no human has ever been or seen, and quite likely might never go again. And as a bonus, you’re in pleasant countryside less than five miles outside Skipton, home of Le Caveau, the best restaurant I’ve ever eaten in. Why is there not a queue of super-rich bros lining up to explore this strange, forbidding, ludicrously inaccessible and challenging place five minutes’ walk from a tea room on a B-road?

    Could it be that they’re scared?

  4. sonofrojblake says

    It’s often called the most dangerous river in the world, and while the sheer number of dead probably doesn’t support that…

    I was struck by this.

    What qualifies as a “dangerous river”? If you’re going to require a high body count, what you actually need is a river that looks benign, thus luring many people in, but turns out, once you’re in, to be nastier than it appears, due to currents or temperature or hippos/crocodiles/whatever. There’s probably lots of those, and while many may die in “dangerous river” X, many more will likely survive, by luck or judgement.

    The Strid isn’t like that. The Strid looks absolutely deadly, at first look and on longer inspectin. It’s not a tempting prospect. Nobody’s looking at it and thinking “I’ll probably be fine”. I have no idea how many people have tried swimming down it or fallen in accidentally, but according to all sources I could find the proportion who have survived the experience is 0%. I don’t imagine the raw number is very high, but the 100% death rate makes up for it, I think.

  5. says

    The other thing about river bodycount would be proximity to large populations.

    As to billionaire “explorers”, it’s not gonna pull the same kind of headlines, for one thing.

  6. says

    “Danger” is relative. The Yalu River has been dangerous from time to time, including thousands of deaths in a day. Sure, artillery was involved, but that’s dangerous, isn’t it? Not all deaths are accidental. In fact the non-accidental deaths may have greater import.

  7. sonofrojblake says

    it’s not gonna pull the same kind of headlines

    Pah – that’s a mere marketing challenge. 😉

  8. StevoR says

    Thanks for this – something new learnt I had no idea about before – cheers!

    Tangential but thinking mysterious watery undergrounds, well, this :

    Underwater photographer Scott Gutterson explores Kiama Blowhole’s ocean chamber
    ABC Illawarra / By Sarah Moss

    …”In the blowhole itself, the water comes in, and obviously everyone’s seen it blow through the hole in the top,” Mr Gutterson says. “But there’s a chamber in the back of the blowhole and on a flat day, there’s a mini cave in there.” Mr Gutterson is a self-taught photographer who captures his adventures above and below the waterline using a GoPro camera. … (snip)..urf Life Saving NSW CEO Steve Pearce warns swimmers it’s not safe to go near the blowhole.

    “The Kiama Blowhole and surrounding area has been synonymous over the years with numerous drowning fatalities involving major rescues of both swimmers and rock fishermen who have been swept off the rocks or caught in the water due to large swells developing,” he says.

    “We would never encourage anyone, regardless of the conditions, to swim in and out of sea caves because you just don’t know what situation could arise that could present a danger to you, and in turn present a danger to all those first responders who would have to come to your assistance.”

    Kiama Council’s Sally Bursell says more than a million people visit the blowhole each year. “It runs best on a south-easterly swell, and can get as high as 30m,” she says. “And it is our claim to fame, that we have the biggest blowhole in the world.”

    Source :

    Plus there’s this recent development in an area with some fascinating caves and sinkholes :

    A cave diver says there is a very good chance a sinkhole that appeared in Mount Gambier on Sunday is connected to other passages under South Australia’s second-largest city.

    The sinkhole — 2 metres in width and depth — appeared on Sunday on a council path between the Railway Lands park and the Wulanda Recreation and Convention Centre on the edge of Mount Gambier’s CBD. It appeared after heavy rain on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Rain is slightly acidic and dissolves the limestone in the ground over time, leading to sinkholes and caves. Cave diver Josh Richards and his diving companion, Matthew Aisbett, discovered an extension of the Engelbrecht Cave in Mount Gambier two years ago.

    The passage heads towards but does not quite reach the Cave Garden sinkhole park in Mount Gambier’s centre. Mr Richards said passages under Mount Gambier tended to head in a south-easterly direction and the new sinkhole was in a direct line with the new section he found, so they could be connected.

    Source :

    Then, sadly, there’s this much grimmer article on what Global Overheating is doing to our inland rivers which have alrey experienced some dreadful issues with algal blooms, fish kills and droughts here :

    The impact of this projected drying pattern on Australia’s inland rivers is expected to be profound.

    Despite only occupying around 3.8% of the Murray-Darling Basin, the Upper Murray, Mitta Mitta, Kiewa, and Ovens rivers presently provide a large amount of flow within the lower Basin (33% of average annual flows).

    These rivers flow out of the southeastern highlands towards the Murray River, but over the next 50 years they’re expected to experience declining downstream flows. This leads to less efficient flushing of sediment downstream, which, in turn, will increase sediment deposition within these rivers, reducing their size.

    …Other rivers – such as the Murrumbidgee and Macintyre rivers – are expected to undergo even more dramatic changes to their structure and behaviour.

    Right now these rivers maintain a winding course to the central Murray and Barwon rivers, respectively. But our projections suggest these continuous channels won’t be supported, and are likely to be interrupted by sections of channel breakdown.

    Under a drier climate, rivers such as the Lachlan and Macquarie may come to resemble present-day central Australian rivers – only persisting as disconnected waterholes for long periods of time, with internationally important wetlands (Great Cumbung Swamp and Macquarie Marshes) much less frequently inundated.

    FWIW my home city of Adelaide is right at the downstream end of the Murray -Darling (Barka) river stystem and we suffer from issues of water quality and losing water totehupstrema states pretty badly already so, yeah, that’s personal and worrying here.

    Not that Oz generally and SA esp is unique here.. esp in terms of future water & fluvial ecology worries.

    Fluviocide – the killing of rivers. A global issue with some very big implications. Exhibit A : The Aral sea and what happened to its & its region and its main Syr Darya & Amyu Darya (ancient times known as Oxus & Jaxartes) rivers.

    Sorry to end on such a bleak note. 🙁

    PS.Neat trivia – Australia has the only example of two rivers – The Thomson river and Barcoo river – coming together to form a creek – namely Coopers Creek.

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