The English Channel, also called simply the Channel, is the body of water that separates southern England from northern France, and links the southern part of the North Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. It is about 560 km long and varies in width from 240 km at its widest to 33.3 km in the Strait of Dover and it is the smallest of the shallow seas around the continental shelf of Europe, covering an area of some 75,000 km2. The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the English Channel as follows, a line joining Isle Vierge to Lands End. The southwestern limit of the North Sea, the IHO defines the southwestern limit of the North Sea as a line joining the Walde Lighthouse and Leathercoat Point. The Walde Lighthouse is 6 km east of Calais, and Leathercoat Point is at the end of St Margarets Bay. The Strait of Dover, at the Channels eastern end, is its narrowest point and it is relatively shallow, with an average depth of about 120 m at its widest part, reducing to a depth of about 45 m between Dover and Calais. Eastwards from there the adjoining North Sea reduces to about 26 m in the Broad Fourteens where it lies over the watershed of the land bridge between East Anglia and the Low Countries. It reaches a depth of 180 m in the submerged valley of Hurds Deep,48 km west-northwest of Guernsey. 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. There are several islands in the Channel, the most notable being the Isle of Wight off the English coast. The coastline, particularly on the French shore, is indented, several small islands close to the coastline, including Chausey. The Cotentin Peninsula in France juts out into the Channel, whilst on the English side there is a parallel channel known as the Solent between the Isle of Wight and the mainland. The Celtic Sea is to the west of the Channel, the time difference of about six hours between high water at the eastern and western limits of the Channel is indicative of the tidal range being amplified further by resonance. It was never defined as a border and the names were more or less descriptive. It was not considered as the property of a nation, strangely, before the development of the modern nations, British scholars very often referred to it as Gaulish and the French one as British or English. The name English Channel has been used since the early 18th century. In modern Dutch, however, it is known as Het Kanaal, later, it has also been known as the British Channel or the British Sea having been called the Oceanus Britannicus by the 2nd-century geographer Ptolemy. The same name is used on an Italian map of about 1450, the Anglo-Saxon texts often call it Sūð-sǣ as opposed to Norð-sǣ
Image: English Channel Satellite
Map of the English Channel
The Strait of Dover viewed from France, looking towards England. The white cliffs of Dover on the English coast are visible from France on a clear day.