The English Channel


August 13, 2022

The English Channel (English: The English Channel; French: La Manche, "arm"; Breton: Mor Breizh, "Breton Sea") is the strait that separates England from France, and the British Isles from mainland Europe. It is part of the Atlantic Ocean, and links this to the North Sea. The border with the Atlantic Ocean in the Celtic Sea is drawn along the line between Ile d'Ouessant off Brittany and the Isles of Scilly off Cornwall, while the line Calais - Dover forms the border with the North Sea. It is around 560 km long and varies in width from 240 km at its widest to 33.1 km at its narrowest at the Dover Strait, that is between Dover and Calais, where it is 34 km wide. At its widest, it is 240 km. The Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey, as well as several other islands, lie in the Channel, closest to the French side. It is the narrowest of the shallow seas around the European continental shelf and covers an area of ​​around 75,000 km2.

Formation of the channel

Before the end of the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago, the British Isles were part of the European continent. When the ice melted, a large freshwater lake was formed in the southern part of the area, which is today the North Sea. Water flowed from this lake into the Atlantic Ocean between Dover and Calais. Around 6500 BC Heavy erosion grinded away lime so that the English Channel was formed. It has since widened due to wave erosion of the limestone cliffs, a process that is still ongoing.

The Channel Tunnel

There have long been plans to construct a tunnel under the English Channel. In the 19th century, several samples of the ground were taken and digging began, but the technology had not progressed far enough to handle the project. It was not until 1994 that the Channel Tunnel opened, connecting Cheriton in Kent on the English side and Sangatte on the French side. It is a railway tunnel, which is used for both passenger and goods transport.

Special crossings of the channel

First flight

On 7 January 1785, Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard and American John Jeffries became the first to cross the Channel by balloon.

First swimmer

The first to swim across the channel was Matthew Webb, in 1875. On 6 August 1926, Gertrude Ederle became the first woman to swim across, and she also beat the man's record by two hours.

First in human-powered aircraft

In 1979, Bryan Allen won £100,000 when he became the first to cross in a human-powered aircraft. He had then pedaled the approximately 35 kg Gossamer Albatross for three hours.

First in motorized aircraft

The first person to cross the Channel in a motorized plane was Louis Bleriot, in 1909.

First free hover

On 31 July 2003, Austrian parachutist Felix Baumgarter jumped out of a plane at around 9,000 m above Dover, and with special carbon wings he soared in free fall over to Calais where he opened his parachute.

Latest world record

The last world record to be set for a Channel crossing was when Richard Branson broke the amphibious car crossing record by around six hours on 14 June 2004.


External links

(a) English Channel – category of images, video or audio on Commons (en) La Manche - English Channel - gallery of images, video or audio on Commons (no) The English Channel in Great Norwegian Lexicon Ferry routes to the British mainland at Wikivoyage Oceanus Britannicus or the British Sea Full Channel swim lists and swimmer information, list of channel swimmers Archives of long distance swimming, archive of long distance swimmers