The ENGLISH CHANNEL (French : la Manche, "the Sleeve"; German :
Ärmelkanal, "Sleeve Channel"; Breton : Mor Breizh, "Sea of Brittany";
Cornish : Mor Bretannek, "British Sea"), also called simply THE
CHANNEL, is the body of water that separates southern
France , and links the southern part of the
North Sea to the
Atlantic Ocean .
It is about 560 km (350 mi) long and varies in width from 240 km (150
mi) at its widest to 33.3 km (20.7 mi) in the
Strait of Dover
Strait of Dover . 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).
* 1 Geography
* 2 Name
* 2.1 Ancient references
* 2.2 History and Etymology
* 3 Geological origins; giant waterfalls and catastrophic floods
* 4 Human geography
* 4.1 Route to the
* 4.2 Norsemen and
England and Britain: Naval superpower
* 4.4 First World War
Second World War
Second World War
* 5 Population
* 6 Shipping
* 7 Ecology
* 8 Transport
* 8.1 Ferry
* 9 Economy
* 9.1 Tourism
* 10 Culture and languages
* 11 Channel crossings
* 11.1 By boat
* 11.2 By air
* 11.3 By swimming
* 11.4 By car
* 11.5 Other types
* 12 See also
* 13 References
* 14 External links
Map of the
International Hydrographic Organization
International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of
English Channel as follows: 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 .
The IHO defines the southwestern limit of the
North Sea as "a line
joining the Walde Lighthouse (France, 1°55'E) and Leathercoat Point
(England, 51°10'N)". The Walde Lighthouse is 6 km east of Calais
(50°59′06″N 1°55′00″E / 50.98500°N 1.91667°E /
50.98500; 1.91667 ), and Leathercoat Point is at the north end of St
Kent (51°10′00″N 1°24′00″E /
51.16667°N 1.40000°E / 51.16667; 1.40000 ). 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.
Strait of Dover
Strait of Dover (French: Pas de Calais), at the Channel's eastern
end, is its narrowest point, while its widest point lies between Lyme
Bay and the Gulf of
Saint Malo near its midpoint. 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
Calais . Eastwards from there the adjoining
North Sea reduces 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 Hurd\'s Deep , 48 km (30 mi) west-northwest of
Guernsey . The
eastern region along the French coast between
Cherbourg and the mouth
Seine river at
Le Havre is frequently referred to as the Bay of
the Seine (French: Baie de Seine). Three French river mouths.
Top to bottom: the Somme , the Authie and the
There are several major islands in the Channel, the most notable
Isle of Wight
Isle of Wight off the English coast, and the Channel Islands
Crown Dependencies off the coast of France. The coastline,
particularly on the French shore, is deeply indented; several small
islands close to the coastline, including
Chausey and Mont
Saint-Michel , are within French jurisdiction. The Cotentin Peninsula
France juts out into the Channel, whilst on the English side there
is a small 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 Channel acts as a funnel that amplifies the tidal range from less
than a metre as observed at sea to more than 6 metres as observed in
Channel Islands , the west coast of the
Cotentin Peninsula and the
north coast of
Britanny . 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 .
For the UK
Shipping Forecast the Channel is divided into the
following areas, from the west:
Map with French nomenclature
* Mare Britannicum Roman time;
* Mare Gallicum Roman time;
* "Sea near Gaul" Roman time;
* Oceanus Gallicus 6th - 7th century (
Isidore of Sevilla );
* Sūð-sǣ 11th century (
* mare anglicum 12th century (
* Gallico mari 12th century (
William of Newburgh );
* "arm of the sea south of the country that allows to sail to Gaul"
around 1100 - 1155 (
Geoffrey of Monmouth );
* "Beyond the sea" End 14th century (
Jean Froissart );
* Oceanus Britannicus in 1477 (
Taddeo Crivelli );
* Oceanus Britannicus in 1482 (
Nicolaus Germanus );
* Britannico Oceano in 1482 (
Francesco Berlinghieri );
* Mare Anglica in 1540 (
Sebastian Münster );
* Mer Oceane or mare oceanum in the 16th century on various maps;
* Britannicus Oceanus et La Grand Mer Occeane in 1570;
* Oceanus Britannicus 16th century;
* Mer de
* Mare Britannicum 16th century (
Jean Jolivet );
Ocean in 1595 (
John Norden );
* Channel en 1593 (
* mare normandicum, ocean de bretaigne, mer de
France 16th to 17th
* The British or Narrow Sea to the 17th century;
* British Sea or the Chanell 17th century;
* le Manche (masculine) in 1639 (Nicolas Sanson);
* la manche d’Angleterre in 1611 (
* La Mer Britannique, vulgairement la Manche in 1623;
* British Channel in 1745 (
John Renshaw );
English Channel 18th century;
HISTORY AND ETYMOLOGY
Throughout the centuries until the 18th, the
English Channel did not
have any fixed name in English and in French. It was never defined as
a political 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" (Gallicum in Latin) and the French one as
"British" or "English". 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. In modern Dutch, however, it is known as Het Kanaal (with no
reference to the word "English"). 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, which gives the alternative name
of canalites Anglie—possibly the first recorded use of the Channel
designation. The Anglo-Saxon texts often call it Sūð-sǣ ("South
Sea") as opposed to Norð-sǣ ("North Sea" =
Bristol Channel ). The
common word channel was first recorded in Middle English in the 13th
century and was borrowed from Old French chanel, variant form of
The French name la Manche has been in use since at least the 17th
century. The name is usually said to refer to the Channel's sleeve
(French: la manche) shape. Folk etymology has derived it from a Celtic
word meaning channel that is also the source of the name for the Minch
in Scotland, but this name was never mentioned before the 17th
century, and French and British sources of that time are perfectly
clear about its etymology. The name in Breton (Mor Breizh) means
"Breton Sea", and its Cornish name (Mor Bretannek) means "British
GEOLOGICAL ORIGINS; GIANT WATERFALLS AND CATASTROPHIC FLOODS
The Channel is of geologically recent origins, having been dry land
for most of the
Pleistocene period. Before the Devensian glaciation
(the most recent ice age that ended around 10,000 years ago), Britain
Ireland were part of continental
Europe , linked by an unbroken
Weald-Artois Anticline , a ridge that acted as a natural dam holding
back a large freshwater pro-glacial lake in the
Doggerland region, now
submerged under the
North Sea . During this period the
North Sea and
almost all of the
British Isles were covered by ice. The lake was fed
by meltwater from the Baltic and from the Caledonian and Scandinavian
ice sheets that joined to the north, blocking its exit. The sea level
was about 120 m (390 ft) lower than it is today. Then, between 450,000
and 180,000 years ago, at least two catastrophic glacial lake outburst
floods breached the
Weald–Artois anticline .
The first flood would have lasted for several months, releasing as
much as one million cubic metres of water per second. The flood
started with large but localized waterfalls over the ridge, which
excavated depressions now known as the Fosses Dangeard . The flow
eroded the retaining ridge, causing the rock dam to fail and releasing
lake water into the Atlantic. After multiple episodes of changing sea
level, during which the Fosses Dangeard were largely infilled by
various layers of sediment, another catastrophic flood carved a large
bedrock-floored valley, the Lobourg Channel , some 500 m wide and 25 m
deep, from the southern
North Sea basin through the centre of the
Dover and into the English Channel. It left streamlined
islands, longitudinal erosional grooves, and other features
characteristic of catastrophic megaflood events, still present on the
sea floor and now revealed by high-resolution sonar. Through the
scoured channel passed a river, which drained the combined
Thames westwards to the Atlantic.
The flooding destroyed the ridge that connected Britain to
continental Europe, although a land connection across the southern
North Sea would have existed intermittently at later times when
periods of glaciation resulted in lowering of sea levels. At the end
of the last glacial period , rising sea levels finally severed the
last land connection.
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
Richard II (Act II, Scene 1)
The Channel, which delayed human reoccupation of
Great Britain for
more than 100,000 years, has in historic times been both an easy
entry for seafaring people and a key natural defence, halting invading
armies while in conjunction with control of the
North Sea allowing
Britain to blockade the continent. 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 ,
Norman Conquest in 1066 and the invasion by the Dutch in 1688,
while the concentration of excellent harbours in the Western Channel
on Britain's south coast made possible the largest invasion of all
Normandy Landings in 1944. Channel naval battles include the
Battle of the Downs (1639),
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 to 1217. For nearly a thousand years, the Channel
also provided a link between the Modern Celtic regions and languages
Brittany was founded by Britons who fled
Devon after Anglo-Saxon encroachment. In Brittany, there
is a region known as "
Cornouaille " (Cornwall) in French and "Kernev"
in Breton In ancient times there was also a "
Domnonia " (Devon) in
Brittany as well.
In February 1684, ice formed on the sea in a belt 3 miles (4.8 km)
wide off the coast of
Kent and 2 miles (3.2 km) wide on the French
ROUTE TO THE BRITISH ISLES
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 Old East
Norse , and the green area the other Germanic languages with which Old
Norse still retained some mutual intelligibility.
Remnants of a mesolithic boatyard have been found on the Isle of
Wight . Wheat was traded across the Channel about 8,000 years ago.
"... Sophisticated social networks linked the
Neolithic front in
Europe to the
Mesolithic peoples of northern Europe." The
Ferriby Boats , Hanson Log Boats and the later
Dover Bronze Age Boat
could carry a substantial cross-Channel cargo.
Diodorus Siculus and Pliny both suggest trade between the rebel
Celtic tribes of
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 end of Roman rule in Britain in 410
AD, after which the early Anglo-
Saxons left less clear historical
In the power vacuum left by the retreating Romans, the Germanic
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 crossed during the Migration
Period , conquering and perhaps displacing the native Celtic
NORSEMEN AND NORMANS
The Hermitage of St
Helier lies in the bay off Saint
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.
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
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-Romance language and intermarried with the area's inhabitants
and became the
Normans – a Norman French -speaking mixture of
Hiberno-Norse , Orcadians , Anglo-Danish , and
Rollo's descendant William, Duke of Normandy became king of England
in 1066 in the
Norman Conquest beginning with the
Battle of Hastings
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
France under Philip II , while
insular Normandy (the
Channel Islands ) remained under English
control. In 1259, Henry III of
England recognised the legality of
French possession of mainland Normandy under the Treaty of Paris . His
successors, however, often fought to regain control of mainland
With the rise of
William the Conqueror
William the Conqueror the
North Sea and Channel
began to lose some of their importance. The new order oriented most of
England and Scandinavia's trade south, toward the
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.
Channel Islands (except for
Chausey ) are Crown dependencies of
the British Crown . 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 AND BRITAIN: NAVAL SUPERPOWER
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 and the
Dutch 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 the world.
The building of the
British Empire was possible only because the
Royal Navy eventually managed to exercise 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 was thwarted following the British
naval victory at the
Battle of Quiberon Bay in 1759.
Another significant challenge to British domination of the seas came
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
World War I
World War I . "Five keys lock up the world! Singapore,
Alexandria , Gibraltar, Dover." However, on 25 July 1909
Louis Blériot made the first Channel crossing from
an aeroplane. Blériot's crossing signalled the end of the Channel as
a barrier-moat for
England against foreign enemies.
Kaiserliche Marine 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 the war started to escort cross-Channel troopships
and to prevent submarines from sailing in the Channel, obliging them
to travel to the Atlantic via the much longer route around
On land, the German army attempted to capture Channel ports in the
Race to the Sea
Race to the Sea but although the trenches are often said to have
stretched "from the frontier of Switzerland to the English Channel",
they reached the coast at the North Sea. Much of the British war
Flanders was a bloody but successful strategy to prevent the
Germans reaching the Channel coast.
At the outset of the war, an attempt was made to block the path of
U-boats through the
Dover Strait with naval minefields . By February
1915, this had been augmented by a 25 kilometres (16 mi) stretch of
light steel netting called the
Dover Barrage , which it was hoped
would ensnare submerged submarines. After initial success, the Germans
learned how to pass through the barrage, aided by the unreliability of
British mines. On 31 January 1917, the Germans restarted unrestricted
submarine warfare leading to dire Admiralty predictions that
submarines would defeat Britain by November, the most dangerous
situation Britain faced in either world war.
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. During 1917, the Dover
Barrage was re-sited with improved mines and more effective nets,
aided by regular patrols by small warships equipped with powerful
searchlights. A German attack on these vessels resulted in the Battle
Dover Strait in 1917 . A much more ambitious attempt to improve
the barrage, by installing eight massive concrete towers across the
strait was called the
Admiralty M-N Scheme but only two towers were
nearing completion at the end of the war and the project was
The naval blockade in the Channel and
North Sea was one of the
decisive factors in the German defeat in 1918.
SECOND WORLD WAR
British radar facilities during the
Battle of Britain
Battle of Britain 1940
Second World War
Second World War , naval activity in the European theatre
was primarily limited to the Atlantic . During the Battle of
May 1940, the German forces succeeded in capturing both Boulogne and
Calais , thereby threatening the line of retreat for the British
Expeditionary Force . By a combination of hard fighting and German
indecision, the port of
Dunkirk was kept open allowing 338,000 Allied
troops to be evacuated in
Operation Dynamo . More than 11,000 were
Le Havre during
Operation Cycle and a further 192,000
were evacuated from ports further down the coast in
Operation Ariel in
June 1940. The early stages of the
Battle of Britain
Battle of Britain 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. Despite these early successes against
shipping, the Germans did not win the air supremacy necessary for
Operation Sealion , the projected cross-Channel invasion.
The Channel subsequently became the stage for an intensive coastal
war, featuring submarines, minesweepers , and
Fast Attack Craft .
Second World War
Second World War German gun emplacement in Normandy 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
Dieppe was the site of an ill-fated
Dieppe Raid by Canadian and
British armed forces. More successful was the later Operation Overlord
D-Day ), a massive invasion of German -occupied
France by Allied
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 .
Channel Islands were the only part of the British Commonwealth
Germany (excepting the part of
Egypt occupied by the
Afrika Korps at the time of the
Second Battle of El Alamein
Second Battle of El Alamein , which
was a protectorate and not part of the Commonwealth). The German
occupation of 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 occupation,
particularly in the final months, when the population was close to
starvation. The German troops on the islands surrendered on 9 May
1945, a day after the final surrender in mainland Europe.
English Channel is far more densely populated on the English
shore. The most significant towns and cities along both the English
and French sides of 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:
Spinnaker Tower ,
Littlehampton : 461,181 inhabitants, made
Brighton : 155,919
Worthing : 96,964
Hove : 72,335
Littlehampton : 55,716
* Lancing –
Sompting : 30,360
Portsmouth : 442,252, including
Gosport : 79,200
Bournemouth "> The walled city of
Saint-Malo was a former
stronghold of corsairs .
Le Havre : 248,547 inhabitants
Calais : 104,852
Boulogne-sur-Mer : 92,704
Cherbourg : 42,318
Saint-Brieuc : 45,879
Saint-Malo : 50,675
Perros-Guirec : 48,990
* Dieppe : 42,202
Morlaix : 35,996
Dinard : 25,006
Le Touquet-Paris-Plage : 23,994
Fécamp : 22,717
* Eu –
Le Tréport : 22,019
Deauville : 20,406
Jersey : 28,310 inhabitants
Saint Peter Port ,
Guernsey : 16,488 inhabitants
* Saint Anne,
Alderney : 2,200 inhabitants
Sark : 600 inhabitants
Herm : 60 inhabitants
Automatic Identification System display showing traffic in the
Channel in 2006
The Channel has traffic on both the UK-
Europe and North Sea-Atlantic
routes, and is the world's busiest seaway, with over 500 ships per
day. Following an accident in January 1971 and a series of disastrous
collisions with wreckage in February, the
Dover TSS the world's
first radar -controlled
Traffic Separation Scheme was set up by the
International Maritime Organization . The scheme mandates that vessels
travelling north must use the French side, travelling south the
English side. There is a separation zone between the two lanes.
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. There was no loss of life.
The shore-based long range traffic control system was updated in 2003
and there is a series of Traffic Separation Systems in operation.
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.
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. 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
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
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 MAIB report
makes it clear that the harbour controllers were informed of impending
disaster by shore observers before the crew were themselves aware.
The village of
Kingsand was evacuated for three days because of the
risk of explosion, and the ship was stranded for 11 days.
As a busy shipping lane, the Channel experiences environmental
problems following accidents involving ships with toxic cargo and oil
spills. Indeed, over 40% of the UK incidents threatening pollution
occur in or very near the Channel. One of the recent occurrences was
MSC Napoli , which on 18 January 2007 was beached with nearly 1700
tonnes of dangerous cargo in Lyme Bay, a protected World Heritage Site
coastline. The ship had been damaged and was en route to Portland
The beach of
Le Havre and a part of the rebuilt city
The number of ferry routes crossing the
Strait of Dover
Strait of Dover has reduced
Channel Tunnel opened. Current cross-channel ferry routes
* Newhaven –Dieppe
* Portsmouth–Saint Malo
* Rosslare –Cherbourg
* Weymouth –Saint Malo
Many travellers cross beneath the Channel using the Channel Tunnel,
first proposed in the early 19th century and finally opened in 1994,
connecting the UK and
France by rail. It is now routine to travel
between Paris or
Brussels and London on the
Eurostar train . Freight
trains also use the tunnel. Cars and lorries are carried on Eurotunnel
Shuttle trains between
Mont Saint-Michel is one of the most visited and
recognisable landmarks on the English Channel.
The coastal resorts of the Channel, such as
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
The two dominant cultures are English on the north shore of the
Channel, French on the south. However, there are also a number of
minority languages that are or were found on the shores and islands of
the English Channel, which are listed here, with the Channel's name
following them. Celtic Languages
* Breton – "Mor Breizh" (Sea of Brittany)
* Cornish – "Mor Bretannek"
* Irish : Muir nIocht – "Merciful Sea"
* Dutch – "het Kanaal" (the Channel)
Dutch previously had a larger range, and extended into parts of
modern-day France. For more information, please see
French Flemish .
* French – "La Manche"
* Gallo – "Manche", "Grand-Mè", "Mè Bertone"
* Norman , including the Channel Island vernaculars:
* Anglo-Norman (extinct, but fossilised in certain English law
Cotentinais – "Maunche"
Guernesiais – "Ch'nal"
Jèrriais – "Ch'na"
Most other languages tend towards variants of the French and English
forms, but notably Welsh has "Môr Udd".
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As one of the narrowest and most well-known international waterways
lacking dangerous currents, the Channel has been the first objective
of numerous innovative sea, air, and human powered crossing
technologies. Pre-historic people sailed from the mainland to England
for millennia. At the end of the last Ice Age , lower sea levels even
permitted walking across .
the French paddle steamer Élise (ex Scottish-built Margery or
Margory) was the first steamer to cross the Channel.
9 May 1816
Paddle steamer Defiance, Captain William Wager, was the first
steamer to cross the Channel to Holland
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.
First ferry connection through Folkestone-Boulogne
25 July 1959
Hovercraft crossing (
Calais to Dover, 2 hours 3 minutes)
Christopher Cockerell was on board
22 August 1972
First solo hovercraft crossing (same route as SR-N1; 2 hours 20
Nigel Beale (UK)
Coracle (13 and a half hours)
Bernard Thomas (UK)
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.
14 September 1995
Fastest crossing by hovercraft , 22 minutes by "Princess Anne"
MCH SR-N4 MkIII
Craft was designed as a ferry
First vessel to complete a solar-powered crossing using
14 June 2004
New record time for crossing in amphibious vehicle (the Gibbs
Aquada , three-seater open-top sports car )
Richard Branson (UK)
Completed crossing in 1 hour 40 minutes 6 seconds – previous
record was 6 hours.
26 July 2006
New record time for crossing in hydrofoil car (the Rinspeed Splash
, two-seater open-top sports car )
Frank M. Rinderknecht (Switzerland)
Completed crossing in 3 hours 14 minutes
25 September 2006
First crossing on a towed inflatable object (not a powered
inflatable boat )
Stephen Preston (UK)
Completed crossing in 180 min
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 pick-up (the
"Nissank"), fitted with a Honda outboard engine.
First crossing by water ski .
An annual Cross Channel Ski Race was run from the Varne Boat Club
from the 1960s onwards. The race was from the Varne club in Greatstone
on Sea to Cap Gris Nez / Boulogne (latter years) and back. Many
waterskiers have made this return crossing non stop since this time.
Youngest known waterskier to cross the Channel was John Clements aged
10, from the Varne Boat Club on 22 August 1974 who made the crossing
from Littlestone to Boulogne and back without falling.
20 August 2011
First Crossing by Sea Scooters
A four-man relay team from Scarborough, North Yorkshire, headed by
Heath Samples, crossed from
Shakespeare Beach to Wissant.
It took 12 hours 26 minutes 39 seconds and set a new Guinness World
Pierre Andriel crossed the
English Channel aboard the Élise , ex the
Scottish p.s. "Margery" in March 1816, one of the earliest seagoing
voyages by steam ship .
The paddle steamer Defiance, Captain William Wager, was the first
steamer to cross the Channel to Holland, arriving there on 9 May 1816.
On 10 June 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.
In June 1843, because of difficulties with
Dover harbour, the South
Eastern Railway company developed the
route as an alternative to Calais-Dover. The first ferry crossed under
the command of
Captain Hayward .
In 1974 a Welsh coracle piloted by Bernard Thomas of Llechryd crossed
English Channel to
France in 13½ hours. The journey was
undertaken to demonstrate how the Bull Boats of the
Mandan Indians of
North Dakota could have been copied from coracles introduced by Prince
Madog in the 12th century.
Mountbatten class hovercraft (MCH) entered commercial service in
August 1968, initially between
Dover and Boulogne but later also
Pegwell Bay ) to Calais. The journey time
Dover to Boulogne
was roughly 35 minutes, with six trips per day at peak times. The
fastest 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,
List of English Channel crossings by air
The first aircraft to cross the Channel was a balloon in 1785,
piloted by Jean Pierre François Blanchard (France) and John Jeffries
Louis Blériot (France) piloted the first airplane to cross in 1909.
List of successful English Channel swimmers
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
France on 24–25 August 1875 in 21 hours 45 minutes.
In 1927, at a time when fewer than ten swimmers (including the first
Gertrude Ederle in 1926) had managed to emulate the feat and
many dubious claims were being made, the Channel Swimming Association
(CSA) was founded to authenticate and ratify swimmers' claims to have
swum the Channel and to verify crossing times. The CSA was dissolved
in 1999 and was succeeded by two separate organisations: CSA (Ltd) and
the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation (CSPF). Both observe and
authenticate cross-Channel swims in the Strait of Dover. The Channel
Crossing Association was set up at about this time to cater for
The team with the most number of Channel swims to its credit is the
Serpentine Swimming Club in London, followed by the International Sri
Chinmoy Marathon Team.
By the end of 2005, 811 people had completed 1,185 verified crossings
under the rules of the CSA, the CSA (Ltd), the CSPF and Butlins.
The number of swims conducted under and ratified by the Channel
Swimming Association to 2005 was 982 by 665 people. This includes 24
two-way crossings and three three-way crossings.
The number of ratified swims to 2004 was 948 by 675 people (456 men,
214 women). There have been 16 two-way crossings (9 by men and 7 by
women). There have been three three-way crossings (2 by men and 1 by a
woman). (It is unclear whether this last set of data is comprehensive
or CSA only.)
Strait of Dover
Strait of Dover is the busiest stretch of water in the world. It
is governed by International Law as described in Unorthodox Crossing
Dover Strait Traffic Separation Scheme. It states: "
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."
The CCA, CSA, and CS -webkit-column-width: 30em; column-width: 30em;
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Wikivoyage has a travel guide for FERRY ROUTES TO BRITISH MAINLAND
Wikimedia Commons has media related to ENGLISH CHANNEL .
* Full Channel swim lists and swimmer information
* Oceanus Britannicus