The word “maelstrom” now means any strong power that seems to influence one irresistibly, especially a power composed of conflicting forces which seem to engulf one.
That meaning is figurative. It is derived from the name, Maelstrom, which means whirlpool, given to a certain strong tidal current found near the island of Moskenes off the coast of Norway above the Arctic Circle.
This current, under certain tides and winds, attains great force because of the vast mass of water that rushes past the island every twelve hours out of and into West Fjord. Differences in the depth of the channel also produce powerful eddies which, with the violent seas, cause the destruction of small vessels that may attempt passage.
The entire current was formerly thought to be one vast whirlpool of such irresistible force, according to old fables, as to engulf whales and to suck into its depths any ship that might venture too close to its rim.