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Satellite view of the English Channel

The English Channel (French: La Manche, "the sleeve", Dutch: Het Kanaal, "the channel") is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about 560 km (350 mi) long and varies in width from 240 km (150 mi) at its widest, to only 34 km (21 mi) in the Strait of Dover.[1] It is the smallest of the shallow seas around the continental shelf of Europe, covering an area of some 75,000 km2 (29,000 sq mi).[2]



Map of the English Channel

The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the English Channel as follows:[3]

On the West. A line joining Isle Vierge (48°38′23″N 4°34′13″W / 48.63972°N 4.57028°W / 48.63972; -4.57028) to Lands End (50°04′N 5°43′W / 50.067°N 5.717°W / 50.067; -5.717).

On the East. The Southwestern limit of the North Sea [A line joining the Walde Lighthouse (France, 1°55'E) and Leathercoat Point (England, 51°10'N)].

The Strait of Dover, at the Channel's eastern end is also its narrowest point, while its widest point lies between Lyme Bay and the Gulf of Saint Malo near the midpoint of the waterway.[1] It is relatively shallow, with an average depth of about 120 m (390 ft) at its widest part, reducing to a depth of about 45 m (148 ft) between Dover and Calais. From there eastwards the adjoining North Sea continues to shallow to about 26 m (85 ft) in the Broad Fourteens where it lies over the watershed of the former land bridge between East Anglia and the Low Countries. It reaches a maximum depth of 180 m (590 ft) in the submerged valley of Hurds Deep, 30 mi (48 km) west-northwest of Guernsey.[4] The eastern region along the French coast between Cherbourg and the mouth of the Seine river at Le Havre is frequently referred to as the Bay of the Seine (French: Baie de Seine).[5]

Several major islands are situated in the Channel, the most notable being the Isle of Wight off the English coast and the British crown dependencies the Channel Islands off the coast of France. The Isles of Scilly off the far southwest coast of England are not generally counted as being in the Channel. The coastline, particularly on the French shore, is deeply indented. The Cotentin Peninsula in France juts out into the Channel, and the Isle of Wight creates a small parallel channel known as the Solent.

The Channel is of geologically recent origins, having been dry land for most of the Pleistocene period. It is thought to have been created between 450,000 and 180,000 years ago by two catastrophic glacial lake outburst floods caused by the breaching of the Weald-Artois Anticline, a ridge which held back a large proglacial lake in the Doggerland region, now submerged under the North Sea. The flood would have lasted several months, releasing as much as one million cubic metres of water per second. The cause of the breach is not known but may have been caused by an earthquake or simply the build-up of water pressure in the lake. As well as destroying the isthmus that connected Britain to continental Europe, the flood carved a large bedrock-floored valley down the length of the English Channel, leaving behind streamlined islands and longitudinal erosional grooves characteristic of catastrophic megaflood events.[6][7] The Celtic Sea forms its western border.

For the UK Shipping Forecast the English Channel is divided into the areas of (from the West):


Map with French nomenclature

The name "English Channel" has been widely used since the early 18th century, possibly originating from the designation "Engelse Kanaal" in Dutch sea maps from the 16th century onwards. It has also been known as the "British Channel".[8][9] Prior to then it was known as the British Sea, and it was called the "Oceanus Britannicus" by the 2nd century geographer Ptolemy. The same name is used on an Italian map of about 1450 which gives the alternative name of "canalites Anglie"—possibly the first recorded use of the "Channel" designation.[10]

The French name "La Manche" has been in use since at least the 17th century.[2] The name is usually said to refer to the Channel's sleeve (French: "manche") shape. However, it is sometimes claimed to instead derive from a Celtic word meaning "channel" that is also the source of the name for The Minch, in Scotland.[11] In Spain and most Spanish speaking countries the Channel is referred to as "El Canal de la Mancha". In Portuguese it is known as "O Canal da Mancha". (This is not a translation from French: in Portuguese, as well as in Spanish, "mancha" means "stain", while the word for sleeve is "manga"-which prompts an early phonetic bad translation from French-). Other languages also use this name, such as Greek (Κανάλι της Μάγχης) and Italian (la Manica).

In Breton it is known as "Mor Breizh" (the Sea of Brittany), tied to the Latin and indicative in origins for the name Armorica.


Before the end of the Devensian glaciation (the most recent ice age) around 10,000 years ago, the British Isles were part of continental Europe. During this period the North Sea and almost all of the British Isles were covered with ice. The sea level was about 120 m lower than it is today, and the channel was an expanse of low-lying tundra, through which passed a river which drained the Rhine and Thames towards the Atlantic to the west. As the ice sheet melted, a large freshwater lake formed in the southern part of what is now the North Sea. As the meltwater could still not escape to the north (as the northern North Sea was still frozen) the outflow channel from the lake entered the Atlantic Ocean in the region of Dover and Calais.

This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands.
William Shakespeare, Richard II (Act II, Scene 2)

The channel has been the key natural defence for Britain, halting invading armies while in conjunction with control of the North Sea allowing Britain to blockade the continent.[citation needed] The most significant failed invasion threats came when the Dutch and Belgian ports were held by a major continental power, e.g. from the Spanish Armada in 1588, Napoleon during the Napoleonic Wars, and Nazi Germany during World War II. Successful invasions include the Roman conquest of Britain, the Norman Conquest in 1066 and the invasion and conquest of Britain by Dutch troops under William III in 1688, while the concentration of excellent harbours in the Western Channel on Britain's south coast made possible the largest invasion of all time: the Normandy landings in 1944. Channel naval battles include the Battle of Goodwin Sands (1652), the Battle of Portland (1653), the Battle of La Hougue (1692) and the engagement between USS Kearsarge and CSS Alabama (1864).

In more peaceful times the channel served as a link joining shared cultures and political structures, particularly the huge Angevin Empire from 1135–1217. For nearly a thousand years, the Channel also provided a link between the Modern Celtic regions and languages of Cornwall and Brittany. Brittany was founded by Britons who fled Cornwall and Devon after Anglo-Saxon encroachment. In Brittany, there is a region known as "Cornouaille" (Cornwall) in French and "Kernev" in Breton[12] Anciently there was also a "Domnonia" (Devon) in Brittany as well.


Route to the British Isles

This is the approximate extent of Old Norse and related languages in the early 10th century around the North Sea. The red area is the distribution of the dialect Old West Norse, the orange area is the spread of the dialect Old East Norse and the green area is the extent of the other Germanic languages with which Old Norse still retained some mutual intelligibility

Diodorus Siculus and Pliny[13] both suggest trade between the rebel celtic tribes of Armorica and Iron Age Britain flourished. In 55 BC Julius Caesar invaded claiming that the Britons had aided the Veneti against him the previous year. He was more successful in 54 BC, but Britain was not fully established as part of the Roman Empire until completion of the invasion by Aulus Plautius in 43 AD. A brisk and regular trade began between ports in Roman Gaul and those in Britain. This traffic continued until the Roman departure from Britain in 410 AD, after which we encounter early Anglo-Saxons who left less clear historical records.

In the power vacuum left by the retreating Romans, the Germanic Angles, Saxons, and Jutes began the next great migration across the North Sea. Having already been used as mercenaries in Britain by the Romans, many people from these tribes migrated across the North Sea during the Migration Period, conquering and perhaps displacing the native Celtic populations.[14]

Norsemen and Normans

The Hermitage of Saint Helier lies in the bay off St. Helier and is accessible on foot at low tide

The attack on Lindisfarne in 793 is generally considered the beginning of the Viking Age. For the next 250 years the Scandinavian raiders of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark dominated the North Sea, raiding monasteries, homes, and towns along the coast and along the rivers that ran inland. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle they began to settle in Britain in 851. They continued to settle in the British Isles and the continent until around 1050.[15]

The fiefdom of Normandy was created for the Viking leader Rollo (also known as Robert of Normandy). Rollo had besieged Paris but in 911 entered vassalage to the king of the West Franks Charles the Simple through the Treaty of St.-Claire-sur-Epte. In exchange for his homage and fealty, Rollo legally gained the territory he and his Viking allies had previously conquered. The name "Normandy" reflects Rollo's Viking (i.e. "Northman") origins.

The descendants of Rollo and his followers adopted the local Gallo-Romantic language and intermarried with the area’s previous inhabitants and became the Normans – a Norman French-speaking mixture of Scandinavians, Hiberno-Norse, Orcadians, Anglo-Danish, and indigenous Franks and Gauls.

Rollo's descendant William, Duke of Normandy became king of England in 1066 in the Norman Conquest culminating at the Battle of Hastings while retaining the fiefdom of Normandy for himself and his descendants. In 1204, during the reign of King John, mainland Normandy was taken from England by France under Philip II while insular Normandy (the Channel Islands) remained under English control. In 1259, Henry III of England recognized the legality of French possession of mainland Normandy under the Treaty of Paris. His successors, however, often fought to regain control of mainland French Normandy.

With the rise of William the Conqueror the North Sea and Channel began to lose some of its importance. The new order oriented most of England and Scandinavia's trade south, toward the Mediterranean and the Orient.

Although the British surrendered claims to mainland Normandy and other French possessions in 1801, the monarch of the United Kingdom retains the title Duke of Normandy in respect to the Channel Islands. The Channel Islands (except for Chausey) remain a Crown dependency of the British Crown in the present era. Thus the Loyal Toast in the Channel Islands is La Reine, notre Duc ("The Queen, our Duke"). The British monarch is understood to not be the Duke of Normandy in regards of the French region of Normandy described herein, by virtue of the Treaty of Paris of 1259, the surrender of French possessions in 1801, and the belief that the rights of succession to that title are subject to Salic Law which excludes inheritance through female heirs.

French Normandy was occupied by English forces during the Hundred Years' War in 1346–1360 and again in 1415–1450.

England & Britain: The naval superpowers

From the reign of Elizabeth I, English foreign policy concentrated on preventing invasion across the Channel by ensuring no major European power controlled the potential Dutch and Flemish invasion ports. Her climb to the pre-eminent sea power of the world began in 1588 as the attempted invasion of the Spanish Armada was defeated by the combination of outstanding naval tactics by the English under command of Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham with Sir Francis Drake second in command, and the following stormy weather. Over the centuries the Royal Navy slowly grew to be the most powerful in Europe.[16]

The building of the British Empire was possible only because the Royal Navy exercised unquestioned control over the seas around Europe, especially the Channel and the North Sea. During the Seven Years' War, France attempted to launch an invasion of Britain. To achieve this France needed to gain control of the Channel for several weeks, but were thwarted following the British naval victory at the Battle of Quiberon Bay in 1759.

Another significant challenge to British domination of the seas came during the Napoleonic Wars. The Battle of Trafalgar took place off the coast of Spain against a combined French and Spanish fleet and was won by Admiral Horatio Nelson, ending Napoleon's plans for a cross-Channel invasion and securing British dominance of the seas for over a century.

First World War

The exceptional strategic importance of the Channel as a tool for blockade was recognised by the First Sea Lord Admiral Fisher in the years before World War I. "Five keys lock up the world! Singapore, the Cape, Alexandria, Gibraltar, Dover."[17] However on July 25, 1909 Louis Blériot successfully made the first Channel crossing from Calais to Dover in an airplane. Blériot's crossing immediately signalled the end of the Channel as a barrier-moat for England against foreign enemies.

Because the Kaiserliche Marine's surface fleet could not match the British Grand Fleet, the Germans developed submarine warfare which was to become a far greater threat to Britain. The Dover Patrol was set up just before war started to escort cross-Channel troopships and to prevent submarines from accessing the Channel, thereby obliging them to travel to the Atlantic via the much longer route around Scotland.

On land, the German army attempted to capture Channel ports (see "Race to the Sea") but although the trenches are often said to have stretched "from the frontier of Switzerland to the English Channel" in fact they reached the coast at the North Sea. Much of the British war effort in Flanders was a bloody but successful strategy to prevent the Germans reaching the Channel coast.

On 31 January 1917, the Germans restarted unrestricted submarine warfare leading to dire Admiralty predictions that submarines would defeat Britain by November,[18] the most dangerous situation Britain faced in either World War.

The Battle of Passchendaele in 1917, was fought to reduce the threat by capturing the submarine bases on the Belgian coast though it was the introduction of convoys and not capture of the bases that averted defeat. In April 1918 the Dover patrol carried out the famous Zeebrugge Raid against the U-boat bases. The Naval blockade effected via the Channel and North Sea was one of the decisive factors in the German defeat in 1918.[19]

Second World War

British radar facilities during the Battle of Britain 1940

During the Second World War, naval activity in the European theatre was primarily limited to the Atlantic. The early stages of the Battle of Britain[20] featured air attacks on Channel shipping and ports, and until the Normandy landings with the exception of the Channel Dash the narrow waters were too dangerous for major warships. However, despite these early successes against shipping, the Germans did not win the air supremacy necessary for a cross Channel invasion.

The Channel subsequently became the stage for an intensive coastal war, featuring submarines, minesweepers, and Fast Attack Craft.[21]

150 mm World War II German gun emplacement in Normandy.

The town of Dieppe was the site of the ill-fated Dieppe Raid by Canadian and British armed forces. More successful was the later Operation Overlord (also known as D-Day), a massive invasion of German-occupied France by Allied troops. Caen, Cherbourg, Carentan, Falaise and other Norman towns endured many casualties in the fight for the province, which continued until the closing of the so-called Falaise gap between Chambois and Montormel, then liberation of Le Havre.

As part of the Atlantic Wall, between 1940 and 1945 the occupying German forces and the Organisation Todt constructed fortifications round the coasts of the Channel Islands such as this observation tower at Les Landes, Jersey

The Channel Islands were the only part of the British Commonwealth occupied by Germany (excepting the part of Egypt occupied by the Afrika Korps at the time of the Second Battle of El Alamein, which was a protectorate and not part of the Commonwealth). The German occupation 1940–1945 was harsh, with some island residents being taken for slave labour on the Continent; native Jews sent to concentration camps; partisan resistance and retribution; accusations of collaboration; and slave labour (primarily Russians and eastern Europeans) being brought to the islands to build fortifications. The Royal Navy blockaded the islands from time to time, particularly following the liberation of mainland Normandy in 1944. Intense negotiations resulted in some Red Cross humanitarian aid, but there was considerable hunger and privation during the five years of German occupation particularly in the final months when the population was close to starvation. The German troops on the islands surrendered on 9 May 1945 only a few days after the final surrender in mainland Europe.


The English Channel is densely populated on both shores, on which are situated a number of major ports and resorts possessing a combined population of over 3.5 million people. The most significant towns and cities along the Channel (each with more than 20,000 inhabitants, ranked in descending order; populations are the urban area populations from the 1999 French census, 2001 UK census, and 2001 Jersey census) are as follows:

British side

The walled city of Saint-Malo was a former stronghold of corsairs
The Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth at night, showing the Tower's uplighting.

French side

Channel Islands


The Channel, with traffic in both the UK-Europe and North Sea-Atlantic routes, is one of the world's busiest seaways carrying over 400 ships per day.[22] Following an accident in January 1971 and a series of disastrous collisions with wreckage in February,[23] the Dover Traffic Separation System (TSS)[24] the world's first radar controlled TSS was set up by the International Maritime Organization.

In December 2002 the MV Tricolor, carrying £30m of luxury cars sank 32 km (20 mi) northwest of Dunkirk after collision in fog with the container ship Kariba. The cargo ship Nicola ran into the wreckage the next day. However, there was no loss of life.[citation needed]

The shore-based long range traffic control system was updated in 2003. Though the system is inherently incapable of reaching the levels of safety obtained from aviation systems such as the Traffic Collision Avoidance System, it has reduced accidents to one or two per year.[citation needed]

Marine GPS systems allow ships to be preprogrammed to follow navigational channels accurately and automatically, further avoiding risk of running aground, but following the fatal collision between Dutch Aquamarine and Ash in October 2001, Britain's Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) issued a safety bulletin saying it believed that in these most unusual circumstances GPS use had actually contributed to the collision.[25] The ships were maintaining a very precise automated course, one directly behind the other, rather than making use of the full width of the traffic lanes as a human navigator would.

A combination of radar difficulties in monitoring areas near cliffs, a failure of a CCTV system, incorrect operation of the anchor, the inability of the crew to follow standard procedures of using a GPS to provide early warning of the ship dragging the anchor and reluctance to admit the mistake and start the engine led to the MV Willy running aground in Cawsand bay, Cornwall in January 2002. The Marine Accident Investigation Branch report makes it clear that the harbour controllers were actually informed of impending disaster by shore observers even before the crew were themselves aware.[26] The village of Kingsand was evacuated for 3 days because of the risk of explosion, and the ship was stranded for 11 days.[27][28][29]

The swimming organizations CS&PF and CSA have successfully lobbied to confine swimmers to their costly pilot boats ($4000 USD per trip). The result of this political lobbying is expressed in this document.[30]. Despite this lobbying effort swimmers will note from this document that "However, in exceptional cases the French Maritime Authorities may grant authority for unorthodox craft to cross French territorial waters within the Traffic Separation Scheme when these craft set off from the British coast, on condition that the request for authorisation is sent to them with the opinion of the British Maritime Authorities". It is therefore possible to hire a non CSA or CS&PF pilot boat when swimming the channel.


As a busy shipping lane, the English Channel experiences environmental problems following accidents involving ships with toxic cargo and oil spills.[31] Indeed over 40% of the UK incidents threatening pollution occur in or very near the Channel.[32] One of the most infamous was the MSC Napoli, which with nearly 1700 tonnes of dangerous cargo was controversially beached in Lyme bay, a protected World Heritage Site coastline. The ship had been damaged and was en route to Portland when much nearer harbours were available.


View of the beach of Le Havre and a part of the rebuilt city


Important ferry routes are:

  • Dover-Calais
  • Dover-Boulogne
  • Newhaven-Dieppe
  • Portsmouth-Caen (Ouistreham)
  • Portsmouth-Cherbourg
  • Portsmouth-Le Havre
  • Poole-Saint Malo
  • Poole-Cherbourg
  • Weymouth-Saint Malo
  • Plymouth-Roscoff

Channel Tunnel

Many travellers cross beneath the English Channel using the Channel Tunnel. This engineering feat, first proposed in the early 19th century and finally realised in 1994, connects the UK and France by rail. It is now routine to travel between Paris or Brussels and London on the Eurostar train. Cars can also travel on special trains between Folkestone and Calais.



The coastal resorts of the channel, such as Brighton and Deauville, inaugurated an era of aristocratic tourism in the early 19th century, which developed into the seaside tourism that has shaped resorts around the world. Short trips across the channel for leisure purposes are often referred to as Channel Hopping.

Culture and languages

Kelham's Dictionary of the Norman or Old French Language (1779), dealing with England's Law French, a cross channel relic
A street sign in Merck-Saint-Liévin, Pas-de-Calais, showing Germanic influence in local toponyms. The name Picquendal corresponds to the modern Dutch Pikkendal.

The two dominant cultures are English on the north shore of the Channel, and French on the south shore. However, there are also a number of minority languages that are/were found on the shores and islands of the English Channel, which are listed here, with the Channel's name following them.

Celtic Languages
Germanic languages
  • Dutch - "het Kanaal" (the Channel)

Dutch previously had a larger range, and extended into parts of the modern-day French state. For more information, please see French Flemish.

Romance languages

The English Channel has a variety of names in these languages. In Breton, it is known as Mor Breizh meaning the Sea of Brittany; in Norman, the Channel Island dialects use forms of "channel", e.g. Ch'nal, whereas the Mainland dialects tend more towards the French as in Maunche. In Dutch it is Het Kanaal (the channel).

Most other languages tend towards variants of the French and English forms, but notably Welsh has "Môr Udd"

Notable channel crossings

As one of the narrowest but most famous international waterways lacking dangerous currents, crossing the Channel has been the first objective of numerous innovative sea, air and human powered technologies.

Date Crossing Participant(s) Notes
7 January 1785 First crossing by air (in balloon, from Dover to Calais) Jean Pierre François Blanchard (France)
John Jeffries (U.S.)
15 June 1785 First air crash
(in combination hydrogen / hot-air balloon)
Pilâtre de Rozier (France) Pierre Romain (France) Attempted crossing similar to Blanchard/Jeffries
10 June 1821 Paddle steamer "Rob Roy", first passenger ferry to cross channel The steamer was purchased subsequently by the French postal administration and renamed "Henri IV".
June 1843 First ferry connection through Folkestone-Boulogne Commanding officer Captain Hayward
25 August 1875 First known person to swim the channel (Dover to Calais, 21 hrs, 45 min) Matthew Webb (UK) Attempted crossing on 12 August the same year; forced to abandon swim because of strong winds/rough sea conditions
27 March 1899 First radio transmission across the Channel (from Wimereux to South Foreland Lighthouse) Guglielmo Marconi (Italy)
25 July 1909 First person to cross the channel in a heavier-than-air aircraft (the Blériot XI) (Calais to Dover, 37 minutes) Louis Blériot (France) Encouraged by £1000 prize being offered by the Daily Mail for first successful flight across the channel
23 August 1910 First aircraft flight with passengers John Bevins Moisant (U.S.) Passengers were mechanic Albert Fileux and Moisant's cat.
16 April 1912 First woman to fly across the English channel (Dover to Calais, 59 minutes) Harriet Quimby (US) Her accomplishment did not receive much media attention, as the Titanic had sunk the evening before.
23 August 1926 First woman to swim across the channel (Cap Gris Nez to Kingsdown, 14 hours 39 minutes) Gertrude Ederle (US) Five men had successfully swum the channel before Ederle. Ederle beat their best time by two hours, creating a record for a female swimmer that stood until Florence Chadwick swam it in 13 hours 20 minutes in 1950.
25 July 1959 Hovercraft crossing (Calais to Dover, 2 hours 3 minutes) SR-N1 Sir Christopher Cockerell was on board
22 August 1972 First solo hovercraft crossing (same route as SR-N1; 2 hours 20 minutes[33]) Nigel Beale (UK)
1974 Coracle(13 1/2 hours) Bernard Thomas(Llechryd, Wales) As part of a publicity stunt, the journey was undertaken to demonstrate how the Bull Boats of the Mandan Indians of North Dakota could have been copied from Welsh coracles introduced by Prince Madog in the 12th century[34].
12 June 1979 First human-powered aircraft to fly over the channel
(in 55-pound (25 kg) Gossamer Albatross)
Bryan Allen (U.S.) Won a £100,000 Kremer Prize; Allen pedalled for three hours
14 September 1995 Fastest crossing by hovercraft, 22 minutes by "Princess Anne" MCH SR-N4 MkIII Craft was designed to work as a ferry
1997 First vessel to complete a solar-powered crossing using photovoltaic cells. SB Collinda
14 June 2004 New record time for crossing in amphibious vehicle (the Gibbs Aquada, two-seater open-top sports car) Richard Branson (UK) Completed crossing in 100 min 06 sec. Previous record was 6 hours.
31 July 2003 Crossing in a 20-mile (32 km) long freefall using a wingsuit and a carbon fibre wing Felix Baumgartner (Austria)
26 July 2006 New record time for crossing in hydrofoil car (the Rinspeed Splash, two-seater open-top sports car) Frank M. Rinderknecht (SUI) Completed crossing in 194 min[35]
25 September 2006 First crossing on a towed inflatable object (not a powered inflatable boat) Stephen Preston (UK) Completed crossing in 180 min[36]
July 2007 BBC Top Gear presenters drive to France in amphibious cars. Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May (UK) Completed the crossing in a 1996 Nissan D21 pickup (the "Nissank"), fitted with a Honda outboard engine.[37]
26 September 2008 First crossing with a jetpack Yves Rossy (SUI) Crossing completed in less than ten minutes[38]
12 March 2010 First crossing by water skiing Christine Bleakley (UK) Completed in just over 100 minutes. She completed the challenge for BBC Sport Relief falling eight times during the crossing.

By boat

Pierre Andriel crossed the English Channel aboard the Élise in 1815, one of the earliest sea going voyages by steam ship .

On June 10, 1821 English built paddle steamer "Rob Roy" was the first passenger ferry to cross channel. The steamer was purchased subsequently by the French postal administration and renamed "Henri IV" and put into regular passenger service a year later. It was able to make the journey across the Straits of Dover in around three hours.[39]

In June 1843 because of difficulties with Dover harbour, the South Eastern Railway company developed Boulogne-sur-Mer-Folkestone route as an alternative to Calais-Dover. The first ferry crossed under the command of Captain Hayward.[40]

The Mountbatten class hovercraft (MCH) entered commercial service in August 1968 initially operated between Dover and Boulogne, but later craft also made the Ramsgate (Pegwell Bay) to Calais route. The journey time, Dover to Boulogne, was roughly 35 minutes, with six trips per day at peak times. The fastest ever crossing of the English Channel by a commercial car-carrying hovercraft was 22 minutes, recorded by the Princess Anne MCH SR-N4 Mk3 on 14 September 1995,[41] for the 10:00 am service[citation needed].

The youngest recorded sailors to cross the channel by boat are Hugo Sunnucks and Guy Harrison aged 15 (formula 18 catamaran). They completed in 4 hours 15 mins in August 2006.[citation needed]

By swimming

The sport of Channel Swimming traces its origins to the latter part of the 19th century when Captain Matthew Webb made the first observed and unassisted swim across the Strait of Dover swimming from England to France on 24 August 1875 – 25 August 1875 in 21 hours and 45 minutes.

In 1927 (at a time when fewer than ten swimmers had managed to emulate the feat and many dubious claims were being made), the Channel Swimming Association (the CSA) was founded to authenticate and ratify swimmers' claims to have swum the English Channel and to verify crossing times. The CSA was dissolved in 1999 and was succeeded by two separate organisations: The CSA (Ltd) and the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation (CSPF). Both observe and authenticate cross-Channel swims in the Strait of Dover.

  • 24 August 1875 – 25 August 1875 Capt. Matthew Webb made the first crossing of the English Channel from England to France.
  • 12 August 1923 Enrico Tiraboschi made the first crossing of the English Channel from France to England.
  • 6 August 1926, Gertrude Ederle became the first woman to swim the Channel. She did it in 14 hours 31 minutes, breaking the men's record of the time by two hours. However, this swim attracted some controversy. On 16 August, The Westminster Gazette reported locals as saying that "Miss Ederle swam under the lea of one of the accompanying tugs" while another boat "navigated in such a manner as to keep the heavy seas and tides off her" and that "Miss Ederle was drawn along by the suction of the tug so that she was able to swim at about twice the speed she would have been able to swim under ordinary conditions." The Dover Express and East Kent News commented that "So far little information has been given of the detail of Miss Ederle's swim. The most extraordinary thing about it being that she made no westward drift with the ebb tide, which on the day in question ran westward for nearly seven hours."
  • 7 October 1927, Mercedes Gleitze became, at her eighth attempt, the first British woman to swim the channel. She swam from France to England in 15 hours 15 minutes. Because of a claim which was soon proven to be false, by Dr. Dorothy Cochrane Logan (using her professional name, Mona McLennan), to have swum the Channel on 11 October in the faster time of thirteen hours and ten minutes, Gleitze's own claim was cast into doubt. To silence the doubters, Gleitze decided to repeat her feat in what was called "the vindication swim". On 21 October she entered the water at Cap Gris Nez. But this time the water was much colder, and she was unable to complete the crossing. She was pulled semi-conscious from the water after 10 hours 24 minutes, some seven miles (11 km) short of the English shore. She might have been disappointed at not completing the swim, but after witnessing her strength, courage, and determination, nobody doubted the legitimacy of her previous swim, and she was hailed as a heroine. As she sat in the boat, one journalist made an incredible discovery and reported it in The Times as follows: "Hanging round her neck by a riband on this swim, Miss Gleitze carried a small gold watch, which was found this evening to have kept good time throughout." This was one of the first Rolex Oyster waterproof watches which the director of Rolex, Hans Wilsdorf, had asked her to wear during her repeat attempt, and her feat was subsequently used in advertising by Rolex.
  • Mihir Sen became the first Indian to swim the English Channel, from Dover to Calais on September 27, 1958.[42]
  • In 1961 Antonio Abertondo from Argentina became the first person to swim the channel both ways non-stop.
  • 9 September 1969 Atina Bojadzi, the first Macedonian woman to swim the Channel (the first woman from Yugoslavia, and actually the Balcans). This event was inspiration for the cult Macedonian movie from 1977 "Ispravi se, Delfina" (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076212/).
  • In July 1972, Lynne Cox became the youngest person to swim the English Channel at age fifteen, breaking both the men's and women's records. She swam the channel again in 1973, setting a new record time of nine hours thirty-six minutes.
  • The oldest verified male swimmer to cross is American George Brunstad, who was aged 70 years and 4 days when he crossed on 27 August and 28 August 2004, taking 15 hours 59 minutes.
  • The oldest male swimmer to cross under the rules of the Channel Swimming Association is Australian Clifford Batt, who was aged 67 years and 240 days when he crossed on 19 August 1987, taking 18 hours 37 minutes.
  • The fastest verified swim of the channel was by the Bulgarian Petar Stoychev on 24 August 2007. He crossed the channel in 6 hours 57 minutes 50 seconds.
  • The fastest verified female channel swimmer is Yvetta Hlaváčová in 2006. She crossed the channel in 7 hours 25 minutes and 15 seconds.
  • The fastest verified two way channel swimmer, in a time of 16 hours 10 minutes, is Philip Rush in 1987.
  • The fastest verified female two way channel swimmer, in a time of 17 hours 14 minutes, is Susie Maroney in 1991.
  • The fastest verified three way channel swimmer is Philip Rush in 1987. He crossed the channel (England/France/England/France) in 28 hours 21 mins.
  • The fastest (and only) verified female three way channel swimmer is Alison Streeter in 1990. She crossed the channel (England/France/England/France) in 34 hours 40 mins.
  • The woman with the most crossings, holding the undisputed title of "Queen of the Channel", is Alison Streeter MBE with 43 crossings, including one 3-way and three 2-way swims.
  • The "King of the Channel" title has been awarded to Kevin Murphy (34 crossings, including three doubles)
  • Des Renford swam the Channel 19 times, more than any other Australian. He was born on 25 August 1927, the 52nd anniversary of Matthew Webb's inaugural swim.
  • Other swimming crossings include: Vicki Keith (first butterfly swim crossing); Florence Chadwick (first woman to swim the Channel in both directions); Montserrat Tresserras (first woman to swim the Channel in both directions, as verified by the Channel Swimming Association); Marilyn Bell (youngest person up to 1955); Amelia Gade Corson (first mother and second woman); Mercedes Gleitze (first Englishwoman, 7 October 1927); Brojen Das, the first Asian (23 August 1958); Abhijit Rao, the youngest Asian (6 August 1988); Comedians who have swum the channel Doon Mackichan, and David Walliams.[43]

The team with the most number of Channel swims to its credit is the International Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team with 35 crossings by 25 members (by 2005).[44]

By the end of 2005, 811 individuals had completed 1,185 verified crossings under the rules of the CSA, the CSA (Ltd), the CSPF and Butlins.

The total number of swims conducted under and ratified by the Channel Swimming Association to 2005: 982 successful crossings by 665 people. This includes twenty-four 2-way crossings and three 3-way crossings.

Total number of ratified swims to 2004: 948 successful crossings by 675 people (456 by men & 214 by women). There have been sixteen 2-way crossings (9 by men and 7 by women). There have been three 3-way crossings (2 by men and 1 by a woman). (It is unclear whether this last set of data is comprehensive or CSA-only.)

By car

On the 16th September 1965 two Amphicars successfully crossed the English Cannel from Dover to Calais. One car was crewed by two Army Officers, Captains Mike Bailey REME and Captain Peter Tappenden RAOC. The other car was crewed by Tim Dill-Russell and Sgt Joe Minto RASC. The crossing took 7 hours and 20 minutes. Conditions in mid channel were up to force 5. The cars went onto the Frankfurt Motor Show of that year where they were put on display.[45]

In 2007 the presenters of the BBC programme Top Gear; Jeremy Clarkson; Richard Hammond and James May "drove" across the Channel from England to France. They did it by designing 'Amphibious Cars' which could be driven on land and also operate in water. After four attempts - twice failing to leave Dover Harbour - the three presenters successfully reached the coast of France in a Nissan D21 pickup, dubbed as the Nissank, with an outboard motor and oil drums attached to the back to aid stability in the open water[37]. The other two vehicles that attempted the crossing (a Triumph Herald with a sail and a Volkswagen Campervan with a propeller attached to the flywheel) both sank.

Clarkson believed it might be possible to break the world record for crossing the channel in this manner, but the team were unsuccessful.[46]

The Daily Mail claimed that the BBC received criticism from the coastguard who claimed that they had not been told that the stunt was going to take place, and allegedly branded it "completely irresponsible", despite the aired episode showing the co-operation of the coastguard.[47]

See also


  1. ^ a b "English Channel". The Columbia Encyclopedia, 2004.
  2. ^ a b "English Channel." Encyclopædia Britannica 2007.
  3. ^ "Limits of Oceans and Seas, 3rd edition + corrections". International Hydrographic Organization. 1971. p. 42 [corrections to page 13]. http://www.iho-ohi.net/iho_pubs/standard/S-23/S23_1953.pdf. Retrieved 6 February 2010. 
  4. ^ "English Channel." The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia including Atlas. 2005.
  5. ^ File:Allied Invasion Force.jpg + French map of Channel
  6. ^ Gupta, Sanjeev; Jenny S. Collier, Andy Palmer-Felgate & Graeme Potter (2007). "Catastrophic flooding origin of shelf valley systems in the English Channel". Nature 448 (7151): 342–345. doi:10.1038/nature06018. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v448/n7151/full/nature06018.html. Retrieved 2007-07-18. Lay summary – msnbc.com (2007-07-18). 
  7. ^ GPG Cambridge.ac Physics Today, Sonar mapping suggests that the English Channel was created by two megafloods, (extract of Gupta Potter), Freely downloadabe PDF
  8. ^ Jonathan Potter: Map : The British Channel
  9. ^ A chart of the British Channel, Jefferys, Thomas, 1787
  10. ^ "Map Of Great Britain, Ca. 1450", Collect Britain
  11. ^ Room A. Placenames of the world: origins and meanings, p. 6.
  12. ^ cf. "Kernow", the Cornish for Cornwall.
  13. ^ History Compass
  14. ^ "Germany The migration period". http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-58084/Germany. Retrieved 2007-07-24. 
  15. ^ Nick Attwood MA. "The Holy Island of Lindisfarne - The Viking Attack". http://www.lindisfarne.org.uk/793/index.htm. Retrieved 2007-07-24. 
  16. ^ britishbattles.com (2007). "The Spanish Armada: Sir Francis Drake". http://www.britishbattles.com/spanish-war/spanish-armada.htm. Retrieved 2007-07-24. 
  17. ^ Geoffrey Miller. The Millstone: Chapter 2. http://www.manorhouse.clara.net/book3/chapter2.htm. Retrieved 2008-11-01.  quoting Fisher, Naval Necessities I, p. 219
  18. ^ "U-Boat warfare at the Atlantic during World War I". German Notes. http://www.germannotes.com/hist_ww1_uboat.shtml. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  19. ^ "His Imperial German Majesty's U-boats in WWI: 6. Finale". uboat.net. http://uboat.net/history/wwi/part6.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-13. 
  20. ^ "Fact File: Battle of Britain". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/timeline/factfiles/nonflash/a1057330.shtml?sectionId=2&articleId=1057330. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  21. ^ Campaigns of World War II, Naval History Homepage. "Atlantic, WW2, U-boats, convoys, OA, OB, SL, HX, HG, Halifax, RCN ...". http://www.naval-history.net/WW2CampaignsStartEurope.htm. Retrieved 2007-07-24. 
  22. ^ "The Dover Strait". Maritime and Coastguard Agency. 2007. http://www.mcga.gov.uk/c4mca/mcga07-home/emergencyresponse/mcga-searchandrescue/mcga-hmcgsar-sarsystem/channel_navigation_information_service__cnis_/the_dover_strait.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-08. 
  23. ^ "History of CNIS". Maritime and Coastguard Agency. 2007. http://www.mcga.gov.uk/c4mca/mcga07-home/emergencyresponse/mcga-searchandrescue/mcga-hmcgsar-sarsystem/channel_navigation_information_service__cnis_/history_of_cnis.htm. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  24. ^ "Dover Strait TSS". Maritime and Coastguard Agency. http://www.mcga.gov.uk/c4mca/mcga07-home/emergencyresponse/mcga-searchandrescue/mcga-hmcgsar-sarsystem/channel_navigation_information_service__cnis_/dops_-_dover_strait_tss_chartlet.htm. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  25. ^ "Safety Bulletin 2" (pdf). Marine Accident Investigation Branch. 2001. http://www.maib.gov.uk/cms_resources/SB_%202_2001_%20Ash_and_Dutch_Aquamarin.pdf. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  26. ^ "Report on the Investigation of the grounding of MV Willy" (pdf). Marine Accident Investigation Branch. October 2002. http://www.maib.gov.uk/cms_resources/willy.pdf. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  27. ^ "Picture gallery: Cornwall's stranded tanker". BBC. 5 January 2002. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/1742910.stm. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  28. ^ "Salvage team hunts for leak". BBC. 6 January 2002. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/1745945.stm. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  29. ^ "Stranded tanker safe in port". BBC. 14 January 2002. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/1759670.stm. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  30. ^ "Unorthodox Crossing of the Dover Strait Traffic Separation Scheme". Maritime and Coastguard Agency. http://www.mcga.gov.uk/c4mca/mcga07-home/emergencyresponse/mcga-searchandrescue/mcga-hmcgsar-sarsystem/channel_navigation_information_service__cnis_/dops_-_all-sar_cnis_unorthodox_crossings.htm. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  31. ^ "Tanker wreck starts leaking oil". BBC. 1 February 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/guernsey/4668664.stm. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  32. ^ "Annual Survey of Reported Discharges". Maritime and Coastguard Agency. 2006. http://www.mcga.gov.uk/c4mca/pacops_final_report_2006.pdf. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  33. ^ Verifiable in Hovercraft Club of Great Britain Records and Archives.
  34. ^ Wales on Britannia: Facts About Wales & the Welsh
  35. ^ Stuart Waterman (July 27, 2006). "Rinspeed "Splash" sets English Channel record". Autoblog. http://www.autoblog.com/2006/07/27/rinspeed-splash-sets-english-channel-record/. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  36. ^ "Inflatable Drag". http://www.stupidsteve.co.uk/inflatable.html. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  37. ^ a b http://imcdb.org/vehicle_132991-Nissan-Pickup-D21-1996.html
  38. ^ "Pilot completes jetpack challenge". BBC. 26 September 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7637327.stm. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  39. ^ [1] The History of the Channel Ferry
  40. ^ [2] Channel ferries & ferry ports
  41. ^ "Hovercraft deal opens show". BBC News. 15 June 1966. http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/june/15/newsid_3025000/3025267.stm. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  42. ^ Bose, Anjali, Samsad Bangali Chariutabhidhan, Vol II, (Bengali)p. 268, Sishu Sahitya Samsad Pvt. Ltd., ISBN 81-86806-99-7
  43. ^ "Watch Walliams' Channel swim". BBC. 4 July 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/tv_and_radio/sport_relief/5143966.stm. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  44. ^ "Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team Channel Swim List". http://www.srichinmoyraces.org/channel/channel_swimmers/channel_swimmers_list. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  45. ^ Autocar article entitled Cars Ahoy published 10th December 1965
  46. ^ BBC Top Gear Series 10 Episode 2
  47. ^ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-469782/Coastguards-fury-Top-Gear-stars-attempt-drive-Channel.html

External links

Coordinates: 50°11′01″N 0°31′52″W / 50.18361°N 0.53111°W / 50.18361; -0.53111

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ENGLISH CHANNEL (commonly called "The Channel"; Fr. La Manche, " the sleeve"), the narrow sea separating England from France. If its entrance be taken to lie between Ushant and the Scilly Isles, its extreme breadth (between those points) is about too m., and its length about 350. At the Strait of Dover, its breadth decreases to 20 m. Along both coasts of the Channel, cliffs and lowland alternate, and the geological affinities between successive opposite stretches are well marked, as between the Devonian and granitic rocks of Cornwall and Brittany, the Jurassic of Portland and Calvados, and the Cretaceous of the Pays de Caux and the Isle of Wight and the Sussex coast, as well as either shore of the Strait of Dover. The English Channel is of comparatively recent geological formation. The land-con nexion between England and the continent was not finally severed until the latter part of the Pleistocene period. The Channel covers what was previously a wide valley, and may be described now as a headless gulf. The action of waves and currents, both destructive and constructive, is well seen at many points; thus Shakespeare Cliff at Dover is said to have been cut back more than a mile during the Christian era, and the cliffs of Grisnez have similarly receded. Of the opposite process notable examples are the building of the pebbly beaches of Chesil Bank and near Treguier in Cotes du Nord, and the promontory of Dungeness. The total drainage area of the English rivers flowing into the Channel is about 8000 sq. m.; of the French rivers, including as they do the Seine, it is about 41,000 sq. m.

From the Strait of Dover the bottom slopes fairly regularly down to the western entrance of the Channel, the average depths ranging from 20 to 30 fathoms in the Strait to 60 fathoms at the entrance. An exception to this condition, however, is found in Hurd's Deep, a narrow depression about 70 m. long, lying north and north-west of the Channel Islands, and at its nearest point to them only 5 m. distant from their outlying rocks, the Casquets. Towards its eastern end Hurd's Deep has an extreme depth of 94 fathoms, and in it are found steeper slopes from shoal to deep water than elsewhere within the Channel. Nearing the entrance to the Channel from the Atlantic, the ioo fathoms line may be taken to mark the edge of soundings. Beyond this depth the bottom falls away rapidly. The ioo fathoms line is laid down about 180 m. W. to 120 m. S.W. of the Scilly Isles, and 80 m. W. of Ushant. Within it there are considerable irregularities of the bottom; thus a succession of narrow ridges running N.E. and S.W. occurs west of the Scillies, while only 4 m. N.W. of Ushant there is a small depression in which a depth of 105 fathoms has been found. As a general rule the slope from the English coast to the deepest parts of the Channel is more regular than that from the French coast, and for that reason, and in consideration of the greater dangers to navigation towards the French shore, the fairway is taken to lie between 12 and 24 m. from the principal promontories of the English shore, as far up-channel as Beachy Head. These promontories (the Lizard, Start Point, Portland Bill, St Alban's Head, St Catherine's Point of the Isle of Wight, Selsey Bill, Beachy Head, Dungeness, the South Foreland) demarcate a series of bays roughly of sickle-shape, the shores of which run north and south, or nearly so, at their western sides, turn eastward somewhat abruptly at their heads, and then trend more gently towards the south-east. On the French coast the arrangement is similar but reversed; Capes Grisnez, Antifer and La Hague, and the Pointe du Sillon demarcating a series of bays (larger than those on the English coast) whose shores run north and south on the eastern side, and have a gentler trend westward from the head.

The configuration of the coasts is perhaps the chief cause of the peculiarities of tides in the Channel. From the entrance as far as Portland Bill the time of high water is found to be progressively later in passing from west to east, being influenced by the oceanic tidal stream from the west under conditions which are on the whole normal. But eastward of a line between Portland Bill and the Gulf of St Malo these conditions are changed and great irregularities are observed. On the English coast between Portland Bill and Selsey a double tide is found. At Portland this double tide corresponds approximately with the time of low water in the regular tidal progression, and the result is the occurrence of two periods of low water, separated by a slight rise known locally as "gulder." But farther east the double tide corresponds more nearly with the time of high water, and in consequence either the effect is produced of a prolonged period of high water, or there are actually two periods of high water, as at Southampton. Various causes apparently contribute to this phenomenon. The configuration of the coast line is such as to present at intervals barriers to the regular movement of the tidal wave (west to east), so that reflex waves (east to west) are set up. In the extreme case at Southampton the tidal effect is carried from the outer Channel first by way of the Solent, the strait west of the Isle of Wight, and later by way of Spithead, the eastern strait. Finally the effect of the tidal stream entering the Channel through the Strait of Dover from the North Sea must be considered. The set of this stream towards the Strait of Dover from the east corresponds in time with that of the Channel stream (i.e. the stream within an area defined by Start Point, the Casquets, Beachy Head and the mouth of the Somme) towards the strait from the west; the set of the two streams away from the strait also corresponds, and consequently they alternately meet and separate. The area in which the meeting and separation take place lies between Beachy Head and the North Foreland, the mouth of the Somme and Dunkirk. Within this area, therefore, a stream is formed, known as the intermediate stream, which, running at first with the Channel stream and then with the North Sea stream, changes its direction throughout its length almost simultaneously, and is never slack. Under these conditions, the time of high water eastward of Selsey Bill as far as Dover is almost the same at all points, though somewhat earlier at the east than at the west of this stretch of coast. The configuration of the French coast causes a very strong tidal flow in the Gulf of St Malo, with an extreme range at spring tides of 42 ft. at St Germain, compared with a range of 12 ft. at Exmouth and 7 ft. at Portland. In the neighbourhood of Beer Head and Portland and Weymouth Roads the streams are found to form vortices with only a slight movement. On the eastern (Selsey-Dover) section of the English coast the maximum range of tide is found at Hastings, with a decrease both eastward and westward of this point.

Westerly winds are most prevalent in the Channel. The total number of gales recorded in the period 1871-1885 was 190, of which 104 were south-westerly. Gales are most frequent from October to January (November during the above period had more than any other month, with an average of 2.1), and most rare from May to July. It appears that gales are generally more violent and prolonged when coincident with spring tides than with neaps. The winds have naturally a powerful effect on the tidal streams and currents, the latter being in these seas simply movements of the water set up by gales, which may themselves be far distant. Thus under the influence of westerly winds prevailing west of the Iberian Peninsula a current may be set up from the Bay of Biscay across the entrance of the Channel; this is called Rennell's current. Fogs and thick weather are common in the Channel, and occur at all seasons of the year. Observations during the period 1876-1890 at Dover, Hurst Castle and the Scilly Isles showed that at the two first stations fogs most frequently accompany anticyclonic conditions in winter, but at the Scilly Isles they are much more common in summer than in winter, and accompany winds of moderate strength more frequently than in the case of the up-Channel stations.

(0. J. R. H.) Salinity and Temperature. - The waters of the English Channel are derived partly from the west and partly from the English and French rivers, and all observations tend to show that there is a slow and almost continuous current through it from west to east. The western supply comes from two sources, one of which, the more important, is the relatively salt and warm water of the Bay of Biscay, which enters from the south-west and has a salinity sometimes reaching 35.6 pro mille (parts of salt per thousand by weight); the other consists of a southerly current from the Irish Channel, and is colder and has a salinity of 35. o to 35.2 pro mille. As the water passes eastwards it mixes with the fresher coastal water, so that the salinities generally rise from the shore to the central line, and from east to west, though south of Scilly Islands there is often a fall due to the influence of the Irish Channel. The mean annual salinity decreases from between 35.4 and 35.5 pro mille in the western entrance to 35.2 pro mille at the Strait of Dover on the central axis, and to about 34.7 pro mille under the Isle of Wight and off the Bay of the Seine. The English Channel may be divided into two areas by a line drawn from Start Point to Guernsey and the Gulf of St Malo. In the eastern area the water is thoroughly mixed owing to the action of the strong tidal currents and its comparatively small depth, and salinities and temperatures are therefore generally the same from surface to bottom; while westward of this line there is often a strongly marked division into layers of different salinity and temperature, especially in summer and autumn, when the fresher water of the Irish Channel is found overlying the salt water of the Bay of Biscay. The salinity of the English Channel undergoes an annual change, being highest in winter and spring and lowest in summer, and this change is better marked in the eastern area, where the mean deviation from the annual mean reaches o 3 pro mille, than it is farther west with a mean deviation of o i pro mille. There is also reason to believe that there is a regular change with a two-year period, years of high maximum and low minimum alternating with years of low maximum and high minimum. Variations of long period or unperiodic also occur, which are probably, and in one case (1905) almost certainly, due to changes taking place some months earlier far out in the Atlantic Ocean.

The mean annual surface temperature increases from between 1° C. and 11.5° C. at the Strait of Dover to over 12° C. at the western entrance. 1 The yearly range in the eastern area is considerable, reaching 11° C. off the Isle of Wight and 10° C. in the Strait of Dover; westward it gradually decreases to 5° C. a short distance north-west of Ushant. The mean maximum temperature, over 16° C., is found under the English coast from Start Point to the Strait of Dover about the ist of September and off the French coast eastward of Cape la Hague about eleven days later. In the western area the maximum temperature is about 15° C. and occurs between September 1 and 11. The mean minimum surface temperature is between 5° C. and 6° C. at the eastern end, and increases to over 9° C. off the coast of Brittany. Owing to the thorough mixing of the water in the eastern area the temperatures are here generally the same at all depths, and the description of the surface conditions applies equally to the bottom. In the western entrance, on the other hand, the bottom temperature is often much lower than on the surface; the range here is also much less, about 3° C., and the maximum is not reached till about the ist of October, or from three weeks to a month later than on the surface.

A detailed account of the mean conditions in the English Channel will be found in Rap. et proces-verbaux, vol. vi., and Bulletin supplementaire (1908) of the Conseil Permanent International pour ('Exploration de la Mer (Copenhagen). (D. J. M.) Cross-Channel Communication. - An immense amount of time and thought has been expended in the elaboration of schemes to provide unbroken railway communication between Great Britain and the continent of Europe and enable passengers and goods to be conveyed across the Channel without the delay and expense involved by transhipping them into and out of ordinary steamers. These schemes have taken three main forms: (1) tunnels, either made through the ground under the sea, or consisting of built-up structures resting upon the sea bed; (2) bridges, either elevated high above the sea-level so as to admit of the unimpeded passage of ships under them, or submerged below the surface; and (3) train ferries, or vessels capable of conveying a train of railway vehicles with their loads. A tunnel was first proposed at the very beginning of the 19th century by a French mining engineer named Mathieu, whose scheme was for a time favourably regarded by Napoleon, but it was first put on a practical basis more than fifty years later by J. A. Thome de Gamond (1807-1876), whose plans were submitted to the French emperor in 1856. This engineer had begun to work at the problem of cross-Channel communication twenty years previously, and had considered the possibility of a submerged tunnel or tube resting on the sea-level, of steam ferries plying between huge piers thrown out from both coasts, and of a bridge, for which he prepared five different plans. He again brought forward his scheme for a tunnel, in a modified form, in 1867, and exhibited his plans in the Universal Exhibition of that year. About the same time an English engineer, William Lowe, of Wrexham, was also working at the idea of a tunnel. Geological investigation convinced him that between Fanhole, a point half a 1 50° F. =10° C.; 60.8° F. = 16° C.

mile west of the South Foreland light, and Sangatte on the French coast, 4 m. W. of Calais, the Dover grey chalk was continuous from side to side, and he considered that this stratum, owing to its comparative freedom from water and the general absence of cracks and fissures, offered exceptional advantages for a tunnel. He and Thorne de Gamond joined forces, and their plans were adopted by an international committee whose object was to popularize the idea of a tunnel both in England and France. Its engineers on the English side were Lowe, Sir James Brunlees and Sir John Hawkshaw, the last of whom in 1866 had made trial borings at St Margaret's and near Sangatte; and on the French side Thome de Gamond, Paulin Talabot and Michael Chevalier. In 1868 they reported that there was a reasonable prospect of completing the tunnel in ten or twelve years at a cost not exceeding ten millions sterling. They admitted, however, that there was some risk of an influx of the sea, but pointed out that this risk could be determined by driving preliminary driftways, as suggested by Lowe, and for this purpose asked for financial aid from the imperial treasury. A commission of inquiry then appointed by the French ministry of public works reported favourably on the plans, though it declined to recommend a grant of money; but the further progress of the scheme was interrupted by the outbreak of the Franco-German war.

The tunnel was by no means the only plan in evidence at this period for securing continuous railway communication between England and France. An iron tube, resting on the bottom of the sea, had been proposed by Tessier de Mottray in 1803, and had again been considered by Thome de Gamond in 1833; but after 1850 projects of this kind might almost be counted by the dozen. Some of the structures were to be of iron, others of concrete or masonry, and some were to be floated a moderate distance below the surface. One of the most carefully worked out plans was that of J. F. Bateman and J. Revy, who proposed to construct a continuous tube, 13 ft. in internal diameter, of iron rings each 10 ft. long, each ring being built out from the completed portion of the tube by means of a horizontal chamber or bell, which slid telescopically over the last few rings previously put in place, and was moved forward by hydraulic power. About the same time Zerah Colburn produced plans for a tube constructed of loon ft. sections, which were to be built in dry dock and then successively attached by a ball and socket joint to the completed portion, the whole being raised from the bottom and dragged out to sea, by the aid of a large number of ships, as each section was attached and launched. Thomas Page, again, the builder of Westminster Bridge, proposed to place eight conical steel shafts at intervals across the Strait of Dover, and to connect them by long sections of tube lowered from the surface, the whole structure being covered with concrete when finished. No attempt was made to put any of these plans into execution, and the same was true of several bridge schemes propounded about the same time; in one of these, spans onehalf or three-quarters of a mile in length were contemplated, while another required 190 towers, 500 ft. apart and rising 500 ft. above the water-level, which obviously would have constituted an intolerable nuisance to navigation. The case, however, was different with a train ferry which was vigorously advocated by Sir John Fowler. His proposal was to employ steamers 450 ft. long, with a beam of 57 ft. and a speed of 20 knots, having railway lines laid down on their decks on and off which railway vehicles could be run directly at each side of the strait. Dover was to be the English port, while on the French coast a new harbour was to be formed at Audresselles, between Calais and Boulogne. This plan in 1872 received the sanction of the House of Commons, but was rejected in the House of Lords by the casting vote of the chairman of the committee. According to another similar ferry scheme, which was worked out by Admiral Dupuy de Lome in 1870, a new maritime station was to be constructed at Calais, so far off the shore that it would command deep water at every state of the tide, and connected with the French railways by a bridge.

After the conclusion of the Franco-Prussian War, negotiations concerning the tunnel were resumed between the French and British governments, and in 1872 the latter intimated that it had "no objection in principle." After some further communications between the two governments in 1874, settling the basis on which the enterprise should be allowed to proceed, a joint cornmission was appointed to arrange details relating to jurisdiction, the right of blocking the tunnel, &c., and this commission's report was accepted as a basis of agreement between the governments. In 1875 the Channel Tunnel Company obtained an act authorizing it to undertake certain preliminary works at St Margaret's Bay. In the same year the French Submarine Railway Company obtained a concession, with the obligation to spend a minimum of 2,000,000 francs in making investigations; in fact it took over 3000 samples from the bottom of the sea in the strait, and made over 7000 soundings, and also sunk a shaft at Sangatte and started a heading. The English company did not do so much, for it failed to raise the money it required and its powers expired in 1880. Moreover, it was not the only company in the field, and its programme was not universally accepted as the best possible. Some authorities, such as Sir Joseph Prestwich, doubted whether the tunnel should be attempted in the chalk because of the likelihood of fissures being encountered while others who thought the chalk suitable were dissatisfied with the actual plans and formed a rival "Anglo-French Submarine Railway Company." In 1882 another tunnel company made its appearance. In 1874 the South Eastern Railway Company had obtained powers to sink experimental shafts on its property between Dover and Folkestone, and in 1881 to acquire lands, including the beach and foreshore, in that area in connexion with a Channel tunnel. These powers resulted, in 1882, in the formation of the Submarine Continental Railway Company which in that year sought parliamentary sanction for a tunnel, starting from a point west of Dover, at Shakespeare's Cliff; and at the same time the resuscitated Channel Tunnel Company applied for powers to make one from Fanhole, instead of St Margaret's Bay as in its former scheme. The whole question of the tunnel was then widely discussed and considered by various committees, the last of which - a joint select committee of the Lords and Commons - in 1883 expressed the opinion by a majority that it was "inexpedient that parliamentary sanction should be given to a submarine communication between England and France." This decision for the time being disposed of the question of making a tunnel, and though Sir Edward Watkin, one of its most prominent advocates, brought bill after bill before parliament to authorize experimental works in connexion with it, all were rejected. In 1882 the government interfered with the operations then in progress, and they were ultimately discontinued. They included a driftway 7 ft. in diameter which was driven for a distance of about 2300 yds. eastwards under the sea at an inclination of 1 in 72 from the bottom of a shaft sunk to a depth of 164 ft. in the chalk marl at Shakespeare's Cliff.

About this time the Channel Bridge and Railway Company took in hand the design of a bridge, the preliminary plans for which were exhibited in the Paris Exhibition of 1889. The terminal points were Folkestone and Cap Grisnez, and for the sake of facilitating the laying of the pier foundations it was proposed to take the bridge over the Varne and Colbart shoals. The main girders were to be nearly 59 yds. above the sea-level, the railway itself being more than 20 ft. higher still, and the spans were to vary in length between 540 and 108 yds. As the result of a survey of the sea bottom made in 1890, a modification in the line of the bridge was adopted, and it was taken direct from Cap Blancnez to the South Foreland. It was found that in this way an excellent bottom would be obtained for the foundations, and the length of the bridge would be 3 m. less, the number of piers, by employing spans of 434 and 542 yds. alternately, being reduced to 72. The cost of this structure was estimated at (28,320,000, exclusive of interest on capital during the period of construction, which was put at seven years. The same company also worked out plans for a moving chariot or platform, capable of holding a railway train and supported by long legs on a submerged causeway or track constructed of steel or 1x. 15a armoured concrete 45 or 50 ft. below low-water level. No attempt has been made actually to carry out either this project or that of a bridge.

In 1905 the question of establishing a train ferry from Dover across the Channel was brought forward by the Intercontinental Railway Company, and in the following year the Channel Ferry (Dover) Act was passed authorizing the work. About the same period the Channel Tunnel Company, which had amalgamated with the Submarine Railway Company, awoke to activity and started a campaign in favour of its scheme; but the bill which it promoted was opposed by the government and accordingly was withdrawn in March 1907.

See Blue-book, Correspondence respecting the proposed Channel Tunnel, Commercial No. 6 (1875); Blue-book, Correspondence with reference to the proposed Construction of a Channel Tunnel, C. 3358 (1882); Blue-book, Report from the_Joint Select Committee of the House of Lords and House of Commons on the Channel Tunnel (1883); F. J. Bramwell, "The Making and Working of a Channel Tunnel," Proc. Roy. Inst., May 1882; Tylden Wright, "The Channel Tunnel," North of England Inst. Min. and Mech. Eng. vol. 33 (1882); W. Boyd Dawkins, "The Channel Tunnel," Manchester Geol. Soc., May 1882, and Brit. Assoc. Rep. (1882, 1899); E. de Rodakowski, The Channel Ferry (London, 1905). (H. M. R.)

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Proper noun

English Channel

English Channel

English Channel (English Channel)

  1. The part of the Atlantic Ocean that separates the island of Great Britain from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic Ocean.


  • British Sea (archaic)


Simple English

The English Channel is a body of water that separates the island of Great Britain from the rest of Europe. People who live in the UK and want to visit Europe, or people from Europe who want to visit the UK, can take a ferry across or ride a train under the channel in a special tunnel called the Channel Tunnel (nicknamed the Chunnel). It is 563 km long, 246 km wide, and its narrowest part (34 km) is the Strait of Dover. Many people swam across the English Channel. American swimmer Gertrude Ederle was the first woman to swim across the Channel. But you cannot drive your car across the English channel, you have to hook your car up to the train. Matthew Webb was the first person to swim the English Channel.krc:Ла-Манш


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