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The Strait of Georgia at centre, the Strait of Juan de Fuca below, Puget Sound at the lower right, Johnstone Strait at the extreme upper left. Sediment from the Fraser River clearly visible.
Strait of Georgia at sunset

The Strait of Georgia or the Georgia Strait[1] (also known as the Gulf of Georgia), is a strait between Vancouver Island (as well as its nearby Gulf Islands) and the mainland Pacific coast of British Columbia, Canada. It is approximately 240 kilometres (150 mi) long and varies in width from 18.5 to 55 km (11.5 to 34 mi).[1] Archipelagos and narrow channels mark each end of the Strait of Georgia, the Gulf Islands and San Juan Islands in the south, and the Discovery Islands in the north. The main channels to the south are Haro Strait and Rosario Strait, which connect the Strait of Georgia to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In the north, Discovery Passage is the main channel connecting the Strait of Georgia to Johnstone Strait.

The USGS defines the southern boundary of the Strait of Georgia as a line running from East Point on Saturna Island to Patos Island, Sucia Island, and Matia Island, then to Point Migley on Lummi Island. This line touches the northern edges of Rosario Strait, which leads south to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Boundary Pass, which leads south to Haro Strait and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.[2]

The mean depth of the Strait of Georgia is 156 metres (510 ft), with a maximum depth of 420 metres (1,400 ft). Its surface area is approximately 6,800 square kilometres (2,600 sq mi). The Fraser River accounts for roughly 80% of the freshwater entering the strait. Water circulates in the strait in a general counter-clockwise direction.[1]

The term "Gulf of Georgia" includes other waters than the Georgia Strait proper such as the interinsular straits and channels of the Gulf Islands, and as a region name may refer to communities on the littoral (shore) of southern Vancouver Island. As defined by George Vancouver in 1792, the Gulf of Georgia included all the inland waters beyond the eastern end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, including Puget Sound, Bellingham Bay, the waters around the San Juan Islands, and the Strait of Georgia.[3]

Contents

Islands

Several major islands are in the strait, the largest being Texada Island and Lasqueti Island. The strait is a major navigation channel on the west coast of North America, owing to the presence of the port of Vancouver. The two busiest routes of the British Columbia Ferries system cross the strait, between Tsawwassen (south of Vancouver) and Swartz Bay (near Victoria) and between Horseshoe Bay (north of Vancouver) and Nanaimo.

History

First Nations communities have surrounded the Strait of Georgia for thousands of years. The first European exploration, however, was undertaken by Captain Jose Maria Narvaez and Pilot Juan Carrasco of Spain, in 1791. At this time Francisco de Eliza gave the strait the name of "Gran Canal de Nuestra Señora del Rosario la Marinera." In 1792, however, it was renamed for King George III as the "Gulf of Georgia" by George Vancouver of Great Britain, during his extensive expedition along the west coast of North America. Vancouver designated the mainland in this region as New Georgia, and farther north as New Hanover and New Bremen.

The June 23, 1946 Vancouver Island earthquake shocked the Strait of Georgia region, causing the bottom of Deep Bay to sink between 2.7 m (9 ft) and 25.6 m (84 ft).

Cities

Strait of Georgia from Burnaby Mountain, with Galiano Island and Vancouver Island in the distance

Towns and cities on the strait include Courtenay, Comox, Qualicum Beach, Parksville, Lantzville and Nanaimo on the western shore, as well as Powell River, Sechelt, Gibsons, and Greater Vancouver on the east. Across the border in the United States, Bellingham, Washington and other communities also lie on the eastern shore. Other settlements on Vancouver Island (such as Duncan) and the mainland are separated from Georgia Strait itself by islands.

The Strait of Georgia is also widely known as a premier scuba diving and whale watching location.

In 1967, Georgia Strait inspired the name of Vancouver's alternative newspaper, The Georgia Straight, which has published continuously since.

Georgia Strait bridge proposal

Georgia Strait in the morning

A controversial idea has existed since 1872 of replacing the ferry service on the South Coast with a bridge across the Strait of Georgia. The first idea was to cross Seymour Narrows at Menzies Bay, British Columbia with a rail bridge for the nascent Canadian Pacific Railway to link Victoria, via Bute Inlet and the Yellowhead Pass, with the rest of Canada.

The proposed modern road bridge connecting the GVRD, now called Metro Vancouver, to Vancouver Island in the manner of the Cheasapeake Bay bridge/tunnel, has been discussed for decades, ever since the commencement of service with BC Ferries. Some crossing design suggestions include a part floating/part submerged tunnel to allow ship traffic to move freely. The hurricane-force windstorms of Typhoon Freda and of December 2006 also detract from the safety of such a project.

Support for the construction of the bridge includes arguments that a reliable link to Vancouver Island from mainland Canada will increase tourism and growth on Vancouver Island.

The opposition argues that construction of a bridge will result in further urbanization of the island and that the area's environment will be negatively affected by construction and the increase in tourism. Other potential problems are the width and depth of the strait and the soft consistency of the strait floor, as well as high seismic activity in the Vancouver Island region, and the fact that the strait is heavily used as a navigation channel. Also the depth of the strait is far in excess of any other bridged body of water worldwide.

Former BC cabinet minister Dr. Patrick McGeer, a research neuroscientist and a science advocate, has repeatedly advanced the proposal over recent decades. In a recent statement on the subject, during a CKNW news item broadcast in August 2008, McGeer said he thinks the idea just needs "a visionary politician" to support the idea. The idea has formal opposition in the form of an Islands Trust policy banning the building of any bridges or tunnels connecting the Gulf Islands, either to the Mainland or to Vancouver Island. McGeer still has the model of the bridge idea that was displayed at Expo 86.

Proposed renaming

In March 2008, the Chemainus First Nation proposed renaming the strait the "Salish Sea," an idea that reportedly met with approval by B.C.'s Aboriginal Relations Minister Mike de Jong, who pledged to put it before the B.C. cabinet for discussion, although it is not supported by other First Nations. Renaming would require a formal application to the Geographical Names Board of Canada.[4] A parallel American movement promoting the name has a different definition, inclusive of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound as well as the Strait of Georgia and related waters. The term has come into regular use in various United States-based publications and organizations, but not with the same meaning as that claimed by the Chemainus First Nation.

As of August 2009, the Washington state Board of Geographic Names had approved the creation of the Salish Sea toponym, though not replacing the names of the Strait of Georgia, Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca but instead as a collective term for them all. The British Columbia Geographical Names Office passed a resolution only recommending that the name be adopted by the Geographic Names Board of Canada, should its US counterpart approve the name-change, which remains unofficial until approved by the United States Board of Geographic Names.[5][6][7]

See also

References

External links

Coordinates: 49°17′39″N 123°48′26″W / 49.29417°N 123.80722°W / 49.29417; -123.80722

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