Sunday, 28 June 2009

North Sea

The North Sea is a marginal, epeiric sea on the European continental shelf. The Dover Strait and the English Channel in the south and the Norwegian Sea in the north connect it to the Atlantic Ocean. It is more than 970 kilometres (600 mi) long and 580 kilometres (360 mi) wide, with an area of around 750,000 square kilometres (290,000 sq mi). A large part of the European drainage basin empties into the North Sea including water from the Baltic Sea.
Much of the sea's coastal features are the result of glacial movements. Deep fjords and sheer cliffs mark the Norwegian and parts of the Scottish coastline, whereas the southern coasts consist of sandy beaches and mudflats. These flatter areas are particularly susceptible to flooding, especially as a result of storm tides. Elaborate systems of dikes have been constructed to protect coastal areas.
The development of European civilisation has been heavily affected by the maritime traffic on the North Sea. The Romans and the Vikings sought to extend their territory across the sea. The Hanseatic League, the Netherlands, and finally the British sought to dominate commerce on the North Sea and through it to access the markets and resources of the world. Commercial enterprises, growing populations, and limited resources gave the nations on the North Sea the desire to control or access it for their own commercial, military, and colonial ends.
In recent decades, its importance has shifted from the military and geopolitical to the purely economic. While traditional activities such as fishing and shipping have continued to grow, newer resources such as fossil fuels and wind and wave energy have also been discovered or developed.

North Sea
Norwegian Sea
Eng Ch=English Channel

The North Sea is bounded by the Orkney Islands and east coasts of England and Scotland to the west and the northern and central European mainland to the east and south, including Norway, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively. In the north it is bordered by the Shetland Islands, and connects with the Norwegian Sea, which lies in the very north-eastern part of the Atlantic.
It is more than 970 kilometres (600 mi) long and 580 kilometres (360 mi) wide, with an area of 750,000 square kilometres (290,000 sq mi). and a volume of 94,000 cubic kilometres (23,000 cu mi). Around the edges of the North Sea are sizeable islands and archipelagos, including Shetland, Orkney, and the Frisian Islands. The North Sea receives freshwater from a number of European continental watersheds, as well as the British Isles island watersheds. A large part of the European drainage basin empties into the North Sea including water from the Baltic Sea. The largest and most important affecting the North Sea are the Elbe river and the Rhine - Meuse watershed. The Elbe watershed drains an area of 149,000 square kilometres (58,000 sq mi) which includes 18 cities and their effluence. The Rhine-Meuse delta receives water discharge from a land area of 199,000 square kilometres (77,000 sq mi), including its 68 cities. Around 184 million people live in the catchment area of the rivers that flow into the North Sea. This area contains dense concentrations of industry.

Major features
For the most part, the sea lies on the European continental shelf with a mean depth of 90 metres (300 ft). The only exception is the Norwegian trench which extends parallel to the Norwegian shoreline from Oslo to an area north of Bergen. It is between 20 and 30 kilometres (12 and 19 mi) wide and has a maximum depth of 725 metres (2,380 ft). The Dogger Bank, a vast moraine, or accumulation of unconsolidated glacial debris, rises 15 to 30 metres (50–100 ft) below the surface of the sea. This feature has produced the finest fishing location of the North Sea.
The Silver Pit is a hollow or valley-like depression that has been recognised since about 1843 by fishermen. Nearby is the Silverpit crater, a controversial structure initially proposed to be an impact crater, though another interpretation is that it may result from the dissolution of a thick bed of salt which permitted the upper strata to collapse. Devil's Hole is a group of trenches, around 120 metres (390 ft) deeper than the surrounding sea floor, about 200 kilometres (120 mi) east of Dundee, Scotland.
The Long Forties and the Broad Fourteens are areas which refer to the depth in fathoms, (forty fathoms and fourteen fathoms or 73 and 26 m deep respectively). These great banks and others make the North Sea particularly hazardous to navigate, which has been alleviated by the implementation of satellite navigation systems.

Temperature and salinity
The average temperature in summer is 17 °C (63 °F) and 6 °C (43 °F) in the winter. Climate change has been attributed to a rise in the average temperature of the North Sea. Air temperatures in January range on average between 0 to 4 °C (32 to 40 °F) and in July between 13 to 18 °C (55 to 64 °F). The winter months see frequent gales and storms.
The salinity averages between 34 to 35 grams of salt per litre of water. The salinity has the highest variability where there is fresh water inflow, such as at the Rhine and Elbe estuaries, the Baltic Sea exit and along the coast of Norway.

Water circulation and tides
The main pattern to the flow of water in the North Sea is an anti-clockwise rotation along the edges.

Ocean currents mainly entering via the north entrance exiting along Norwegian coast.

The North Sea is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean receiving the majority of ocean current from the northwest opening, and a lesser portion of warm current from the smaller opening at the English Channel. These tidal currents leave along the Norwegian coast. Surface and deep water currents may move in different directions. Low salinity surface coastal waters move offshore, and deeper, denser high salinity waters move in shore.
The North Sea located on the continental shelf has different waves than those in deep ocean water. The wave speeds are diminished and the wave amplitudes are increased. In the North Sea there are two amphidromic systems and a third incomplete amphidromic system. In the North Sea the average tide difference in wave amplitude is between 0 to 8 metres (0 to 26 ft).
The Kelvin tide of the Atlantic ocean is a semidiurnal wave which travels northward. Some of the energy from this wave travels through the English Channel into the North Sea. The wave still travels northward in the Atlantic Ocean, and once past the British Isles, the Kelvin wave turns east and south and once again enters into the North Sea.

The German North Sea coast
The eastern and western coasts of the North Sea are jagged, as they were stripped by glaciers during the ice ages. The coastlines along the southernmost part are soft, covered with the remains of deposited glacial sediment, which was left directly by the ice or has been redeposited by the sea. The Norwegian mountains plunge into the sea, giving birth, north of Stavanger, to deep fjords and archipelagos. South of Stavanger, the coast softens, the islands become fewer. The eastern Scottish coast is similar, though less severe than Norway. Starting from Flamborough Head in the north east of England, the cliffs become lower and are composed of less resistant moraine, which erodes more easily, so that the coasts have more rounded contours. In Holland, Belgium and in the east of England (East Anglia) the littoral is low and marshy. The east coast and south-east of the North Sea (Wadden Sea) have coastlines that are mainly sandy and straight owing to longshore currents, particularly along Belgium and Denmark.

Coastal management

The Afsluitdijk (Closure-dike) is a major dam in the Netherlands.

The southern coastal areas were originally amphibious flood plains and swampy land. In areas especially vulnerable to storm tides, people settled behind elevated levees and on natural areas of high ground such as spits and Geestland. As early as 500 BC, people were constructing artificial dwelling hills higher than the prevailing flood levels. It was only around the beginning of the High Middle Ages, in 1200 AD, that inhabitants began to connect single ring dikes into a dike line along the entire coast, thereby turning amphibious regions between the land and the sea into permanent solid ground.
The modern form of the dikes supplemented by overflow and lateral diversion channels, began to appear in the 17th and 18th centuries, built in the Netherlands. The North Sea Floods of 1953 and 1962 were impetus for further raising of the dikes as well as the shortening of the coast line so as to present as little surface area as possible to the punishment of the sea and the storms.
Currently, 27% of the Netherlands is below sea level protected by dikes, dunes, and beach flats.

Oosterscheldekering, North Sea Protection Works or Delta Works.

Coastal management today consists of several levels. The dike slope reduces the energy of the incoming sea, so that the dike itself does not receive the full impact. Dikes that lie directly on the sea are especially reinforced. The dikes have, over the years, been repeatedly raised, sometimes up to 9 metres (30 ft) and have become flatter in order to better reduce the erosion of the waves. Where the dunes are sufficient to protect the land behind them from the sea, these dunes are planted with beach grass to protect them from erosion by wind, water, and foot traffic.

Storm tides
Storm tides threaten, in particular, the coasts of the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and Denmark and low lying areas of eastern England particularly around The Wash and Fens.

Zuid-Beveland, North Sea flood of 1953

Storm surges are caused by changes in barometric pressure combined with strong wind created wave action. The first recorded storm

tide flood was the Julianenflut, on 17 February 1164. In its wake the Jadebusen, (a bay on the coast of Germany), began to form.

North Sea flood of 1962 in Wilhelmsburg
A storm tide in 1228 is recorded to have killed more than 100,000 people. In 1362, the Second Marcellus Flood, also known as the Grote Manndränke, hit the entire southern coast of the North Sea. Chronicles of the time again record more than 100,000 deaths as large parts of the coast were lost permanently to the sea, including the now legendary lost city of Rungholt.
The coastline of the North Sea changed again following the flood of 1825; the Jutland Peninsula is now called the North Jutlandic Island. In the twentieth century, the North Sea flood of 1953 flooded several nations' coasts and cost more than 2,000 lives. 315 citizens of Hamburg died in the North Sea flood of 1962. The "Century Flood" of 1976 and the "North Frisian Flood" of 1981 brought the highest water levels measured to date on the North Sea coast, but because of sea defences such as improved warning systems and dikes built and modified after the flood of 1962, these led only to property damage.

The Storegga Slides were a series of underwater landslides, in which a piece of the Norwegian continental shelf slid into the Norwegian Sea. The immense landslips occurred between 8150 BC and 6000 BC, and caused a tsunami up to 20 metres (66 ft) high that swept through the North Sea, having the greatest effect on Scotland and the Faeroe Islands. The Dover Straits earthquake of 1580 is among the first recorded earthquakes in the North Sea measuring between 5.3 and 5.9 on the Richter Scale. This event caused extensive damage in Calais both through its tremors and two tsunamis The largest earthquake ever recorded in the United Kingdom was the 1931 Dogger Bank earthquake, which measured 6.1 on the Richter Scale and caused a tsunami that flooded parts of the British coast.
Shallow epicontinental seas like the current North Sea have since long existed on the European continental shelf. The rifting that formed the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, from about 150 million years ago, caused tectonic uplift in the British Isles. Since then, a shallow sea has almost continuously existed between the highs of the Fennoscandian Shield and the British Isles. This precursor of the current North Sea has grown and shrunk with the rise and fall of the eustatic sea level during geologic time. Sometimes it was connected with other shallow seas, such as the sea above the Paris Basin to the south-west, the Paratethys Sea to the south-east, or the Tethys Ocean to the south.

The North Sea between 34 million years ago and 28 million years ago, as Central Europe became dry land

During the Late Cretaceous, about 85 million years ago, all of modern mainland Europe except for Scandinavia was a scattering of islands. By the Early Oligocene, 34 to 28 million years ago, the emergence of Western and Central Europe had almost completely separated the North Sea from the Tethys Ocean, which gradually shrank to become the Mediterranean Sea as Southern Europe and South West Asia became dry land. The North Sea was cut off from the English Channel by a narrow land bridge until that was breached by at least two catastrophic floods between 450,000 and 180,000 years ago. Since the start of the Quarternary period about 2.6 million years ago, the eustatic sea level has fallen during each glacial period and then risen again. Every time the ice sheet reached its greatest extent, the North Sea became almost completely dry. The present-day North Sea coastline formed when, after the Last Glacial Maximum (the peak of the glaciation during the last ice age) 20,000 years ago, the sea began to flood the European continental shelf. The North Sea coastline still undergoes changes following changes in the worldwide sea level, tectonic movements, storm surges, erosion, the rise and fall of sea levels, shingle drifts as well as the deposition of sands and clastics in paralic environments.

Natural history
Fish and shellfish

Pacific oysters, blue mussels and cockles in the Wadden Sea in the Netherlands.

Copepods and other zooplankton are plentiful in the North Sea. These tiny organisms are crucial elements of the food chain supporting many species of fish. Over 230 species of fish live in the North Sea. Cod, haddock, whiting, saithe, plaice, sole, mackerel, herring, pouting, sprat, and sandeel are all very common and are those which are fished commercially. Due to the various depths of the North Sea trenches and differences in salinity, temperature, and water movement, some fish such as blue-mouth redfish and rabbitfish reside only in small areas of the North Sea.
Crustaceans are also commonly found throughout the sea. Norway lobster, deep-water prawns, and brown shrimp are all commercially fished, but other species of lobster, shrimp, oyster, mussels and clams all live in the North Sea. Recently non-indigenous species have become established including the Pacific oyster and Atlantic jackknife clam.

The coasts of the North Sea are home to nature reserves including the Ythan Estuary, Fowlsheugh Nature Preserve, and Farne Islands in the UK and The Wadden Sea National Parks in Germany. These locations provide breeding habitat for dozens of bird species. Tens of millions of birds make use of the North Sea for breeding, feeding, or migratory stopovers every year. Populations of Black legged Kittiwakes, Atlantic Puffins, Northern fulmars, and species of petrels, gannets, seaducks, loons (divers), cormorants, gulls, auks, and terns, and many other seabirds make these coasts popular for birdwatching.

Marine mammals

A female bottlenose dolphin with her young in Moray Firth, Scotland

The North Sea is also home to marine mammals. Common seals, and Harbour porpoises can be found along the coasts, at marine installations, and on islands. The very northern North Sea islands like the Shetlands are occasionally home to a larger variety of pinnipeds including bearded, harp, hooded and ringed seals, and even walrus. North Sea cetaceans include Harbour porpoises, common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, Risso's dolphins, long-finned pilot whales and white-beaked dolphins, minke whales, killer whales, and sperm whales.

Plant species in the North Sea include species of wrack, among them bladder wrack, knotted wrack, and serrated wrack. Algae, macroalgal, and kelp, such as oarweed and laminaria hyperboria, and species of maerl are found as well. Sea-mat encrusts seaweeds, particularly kelps and is found in the North Sea. Nori, (P. umbilicalis) is found along the coast of the North Sea and is a widely marketed edible seaweed. Eelgrass, formerly common in the entirety of the Wadden Sea, was nearly wiped out in the 20th century by a disease. Similarly, sea grass used to coat huge tracts of ocean floor, but have been damaged by trawling and dredging have diminished its habitat and prevented its return. Invasive Japanese seaweed has spread along the shores of the sea clogging harbours and inlets and has become a nuisance.

Biodiversity and conservation
Flamingos, pelicans, and Great Auk were once found along the southern shores of the North Sea, but went extinct over the 2nd millennium. Gray whale also resided in the North Sea but were driven to extinction in the Atlantic in the 1600s. Other species have seen dramatic declines in population, though they are still to be found; right whales, sturgeon, shad, rays, skates and salmon among other species were common in the North Sea into the 20th century, when numbers declined due to overfishing.
Other factors like the introduction of non-indigenous species, industrial and agricultural pollution, trawling and dredging, human-induced eutrophication, construction on coastal breeding and feeding grounds, sand and gravel extraction, offshore construction, and heavy shipping traffic have also contributed to the decline.

The underside and mouth of a sturgeon

The OSPAR commission manages the OSPAR convention to counteract the harmful effects of human activity on wildlife in the North Sea, preserve endangered species, and provide environmental protection. All North Sea border states are signatories of the MARPOL 73/78 Accords which preserves the marine environment by preventing pollution from ships. Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands also have a trilateral agreement for the protection of the Wadden Sea, or mudflats, which run along the coasts of the three countries on the southern edge of the North Sea.

One of the earliest recorded names was Septentrionalis Oceanus, or "Northern Ocean" which was cited by Pliny. However, the Celts who lived along its coast referred to it as the Morimaru, the "dead sea", which was also taken up by the Germanic peoples, giving Morimarusa. This name refers to the "dead water" patches resulting from a layer of fresh water sitting on top of a layer of salt water making it quite still. Names referring to the same phenomenon lasted into the Middle Ages, e.g., Old High German mere giliberōt and Middle Dutch lebermer or libersee.

A 1490 recreation of a map from Ptolomy's Geography showing the "Oceanus

Germanicus"Other common names in use for long periods were the Latin terms Mare Frisicum, Oceanum- or Mare Germanicum as well as their English equivalents, "Frisian Sea", "German Ocean", "German Sea" and "Germanic Sea" (from the Latin Mare Germanicum).

Early history
The North Sea has provided waterway access for commerce and conquest. Many areas have access to the North Sea with its long coastline and European rivers which empty into it. The first records of marine traffic on the North Sea come from the Roman Empire in 12 BC. The British Isles had been protected from invasion by the North Sea waters. Great Britain was formally invaded in 43 AD and its southern areas incorporated into the Empire, establishing organised ports, an increase in shipping and the beginnings of sustained trade. The Romans abandoned Britain in 410. and in the power vacuum they left, the Germanic Angles, Saxons, and Jutes began the next great migration across the North Sea during the Migration Period invading England.

Viking Voyages

The Viking Age began in 793 with the attack on Lindisfarne and for the next quarter-millennium the Vikings ruled the North Sea. In their superior longships, they raided, traded, and established colonies and outposts on the Sea's coasts. From the Middle Ages through the 15th century, the north European coastal ports exported domestic goods, dyes, linen, salt, metal goods and wine. The Scandinavian and Baltic areas shipped grain, fish, naval necessities, and timber. In turn the north Sea countries imported high grade cloths, spices, and fruits from the Mediterranean region Commerce during this era was mainly undertaken by maritime trade due to underdeveloped roadways.

North Sea bordering countries 500 CE.

In the 13th century the Hanseatic League, though centred on the Baltic Sea, started to control most of the trade through important members and outposts on the North Sea. The League lost its dominance in the 16th century, as neighbouring states took control of former Hanseatic cities and outposts and internal conflict prevented effective cooperation and defence.

Furthermore, as the League lost control of its maritime cities new trade routes emerged which provided Europe with Asian, American, and African goods.

Age of sail Painting of the Four Days Battle of 1666 by Willem van de Velde the Younger

The 17th century Dutch Golden Age during which Dutch herring, cod and whale fisheries reached an all time high saw Dutch power at its zenith. Important overseas colonies, a vast merchant marine, powerful navy and large profits made the Dutch the main challengers to an ambitious and jealous England. This rivalry led to the first three Anglo-Dutch Wars between 1652 and 1673 which ended with Dutch victories. After the Glorious Revolution the Dutch prince William ascended to the English throne. With both countries united, commercial, military, and political power shifted from Amsterdam to London. The Great Northern War(1700-21) and the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714) were fought concurrently. Russia became a major power in Eastern Europe entering western mercantilism and England a rising power at sea and commercial supremacy.
Several conflicts involved disruption of North Sea maritime trade, none of which had a decisive effects on the war's outcome: the French and British cut off Russia's Baltic ports during the Crimean War and Prussia's coasts were blockaded in the First and Second Schleswig Wars as well as the Franco-Prussian War. The British did not face a challenge to their dominance of the North Sea until the twentieth century.

Modern era

German cruiser SMS Blücher sinks in the Battle of Dogger Bank on 25 January 1915.

Tensions in the North Sea were again heightened in 1904 by the Dogger Bank incident, in which Russian naval vessels mistook British fishing boats for Japanese ships and fired on them, and then upon each other.
During the First World War, Great Britain's Grand Fleet and Germany's Kaiserliche Marine faced each other on the North Sea, which became the main theatre of the war for surface action. Britain's larger fleet was able to establish an effective blockade for most of the war that restricted the Central Powers' access to many crucial resources. Major battles included the Battle of Heligoland Bight, the Battle of the Dogger Bank, and the Battle of Jutland. World War One was also the first in which submarine warfare was used extensively and a number of submarine actions occurred in the North Sea.
The Second World War also saw action in the North Sea, though it was restricted more to aircraft reconnaissances, aircraft fighter/bombers, submarines and smaller vessels such as minesweepers, and torpedo boats and similar vessels.
In the last years of the war and the first years thereafter, hundreds of thousands of tons of weapons were disposed of by being sunk in the North Sea.
After the war, the North Sea lost much of its military significance because it is bordered only by NATO member-states. However, it gained significant economic importance in the 1960s as the states on the North Sea began full-scale exploitation of its oil and gas resources. The North Sea continues to be an active trade route.

Political status
The countries bordering the North Sea all claim the 12 nautical miles (22 km; 14 mi) of territorial waters within which they have exclusive fishing rights.

The Exclusive Economic Zones in the North Sea

The Common Fisheries Policy of the European Union (EU) exists to coordinate fishing rights and assist with disputes between EU states and the EU border state of Norway.
After the discovery of mineral resources in the North Sea, Convention on the Continental Shelf established country rights which are largely divided along the median line. The median line is defined as the line "every point of which is equidistant from the nearest points of the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea of each State is measured." The ocean floor border between Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark was only reapportioned after protracted negotiations and a judgement of the International Court of Justice.

Oil and gas
For more details on this topic, see North Sea oil and List of oil and gas fields of the North Sea. As early as 1859, oil was discovered in onshore areas around the North Sea and natural gas as early as 1910.

Oil platform Statfjord A with the flotel Polymarine

Test drilling began in 1966 and then, in 1969, Phillips Petroleum Company discovered the Ekofisk oil field distinguished by valuable, low-sulphur oil. Commercial exploitation began in 1971 with tankers and, after 1975, by a pipeline, first to Teesside, England and then, after 1977, also to Emden, Germany.
The exploitation of the North Sea oil reserves began just before the 1973 oil crisis, and the climb of international oil prices made the large investments needed for extraction much more attractive. Although the production costs are relatively high, the quality of the oil, the political stability of the region, and the nearness of important markets in western Europe has made the North Sea an important oil producing region. The largest single humanitarian catastrophe in the North Sea oil industry was the destruction of the offshore oil platform Piper Alpha in 1988 in which 167 people lost their lives.

Semi-submersible drilling rig in North Sea

The fires on the Piper Alpha burned off most of the hydrocarbons on board and released from the disrupted wells. However, a major blowout in 1977 in the Ekofisk field resulted in oil flowing unimpeded into the sea for a week before it was capped; estimates of the amount of oil released to the environment vary between 86,000 and 126,000 barrels (between 10,000 to 19,000 tonnes, depending on the density of the oil).
Besides the Ekofisk oil field, the Statfjord oil field is also notable as it was the cause of the first pipeline to span the Norwegian trench. The largest natural gas field in the North Sea, Troll Field, lies in the Norwegian trench dropping over 300 metres (980 ft) requiring the construction of the enormous Troll A platform to access it.
The price of Brent Crude, one of the first types of oil extracted from the North Sea, is used today as a standard price for comparison for crude oil from the rest of the world. The North Sea contains western Europe's largest oil and natural gas reserves and is one of the world's key non-OPEC producing regions.

The North Sea is Europe's main fishery accounting for over five percent of international commercial fish caught. Fishing in the North Sea is concentrated in the southern part of the coastal waters. The main method of fishing is trawling.

A trawler in Nordstrand, Germany

In 1995, the total volume of fish and shellfish caught in the North Sea was approximately 3.5 million tonnes. Besides fish, it is estimated that one million tonnes (907 thousand long tons or 1.15 million short tons) of unmarketable by-catch and Cetacean bycatch is caught and discarded each year, including 250,000 sea turtles and 7,000 harbour porpoises.
In recent decades, overfishing has left many fisheries unproductive, disturbing marine food chain dynamics and costing jobs in the fishing industry. Herring, cod and plaice fisheries may soon face the same plight as mackerel fishing which ceased in the 1970s due to overfishing.The objective of the European Union Common Fisheries Policy is to minimize the environmental impact associated with resource use by reducing fish discards, increasing productivity of fisheries, stabilising markets of fisheries and fish processing, and supplying fish at reasonable prices for the consumer.

Mineral resources
In addition to oil, gas, and fish, the states along the North Sea also take millions of cubic metres per year of sand and gravel from the ocean floor. These are used for beach nourishment, land reclamation and construction. The largest extractor of sand and gravel in 2003 was the Netherlands (around 30 million cubic metres or 322 million cubic feet)) from the North Sea).

Unpolished amber stones, in varying hues

rolled pieces of amber, usually small but occasionally of very large size, may be picked up on the east coast of England. Amber appears mainly along the northern seashores of Norfolk and Suffolk, and seaside resorts in Aldeburgh, Cromer, Felixstowe, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, and Southwold which specialize in amber products. Along the North Sea, amber is also found at various localities along the amber belt of the Danish, Swedish and Frisian Island shorelines. Amber districts of the Baltic and North Sea were known in prehistoric times, and led to early trade along the Amber Road.

Renewable energy

Horns Rev offshore wind farm.

Due to the strong prevailing winds, countries on the North Sea, particularly Germany and Denmark, have used the areas near the coast for wind power since the 1990s. Other wind farms have been commissioned, including Windpark Egmond aan Zee (OWEZ) and Scroby Sands. However, the usage of offshore wind farms has met some resistance. Concerns include shipping collisions, reliability, environmental effects on ocean ecology and wildlife such as fish and migratory birds, and the rising costs of constructing wind farms. Nonetheless, development of North Sea wind power is continuing, with plans for additional wind farms off the coasts of Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK. There have also been proposals for a transnational power grid in the North Sea to connect new offshore wind farms.
Energy production from tidal power is still in a pre-commercial stage. The European Marine Energy Centre has installed a wave testing system at Billia Croo on the Orkney mainland and a tidal power testing station on the nearby island of Eday. Since 2003, a prototype Wave Dragon energy converter has been in operation at Nissum Bredning fjord of northern Denmark.


The beach in Scheveningen, Netherlands in c. 1900

The beaches and coastal waters of the North Sea are popular destinations for tourists.
The Belgian, Dutch, German, and Danish coasts are especially developed for tourism. While many of the busiest British beach resorts are on the south coast, the British east coast also has important beach resorts.
The North Sea Trail is a long-distance trail linking seven countries around the North Sea. Windsurfing and sailing are popular sports because of the strong winds. Mudflat hiking, recreational fishing and birdwatching are among other popular activities.
The climatic conditions on the North Sea coast are often claimed to be especially healthful. As early as the 19th century, travellers used their stays on the North Sea coast as curative and restorative vacations. The sea air, temperature, wind, water, and sunshine are counted among the beneficial conditions that are said to activate the body's defences, improve circulation, strengthen the immune system, and have healing effects on the skin and the respiratory system.

Marine traffic
The North Sea is important for marine traffic and its shipping lanes are among the busiest in the world. Major ports are located along its coasts: Rotterdam, the third busiest port in the world, Antwerp and Hamburg, both in the top 25, Bremen/Bremerhaven and Felixstowe, both in the top 30 busiest container seaports, as well as the Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge, Europe's leading RoRo port.

Rotterdam, Netherlands

Traffic in the North Sea can be difficult in high density traffic zones so ports regulate traffic and monitor vessels in the North Sea lanes. Fishing boats, oil and gas platforms as well as merchant traffic from Baltic ports share routes on the North Sea. The Dover Strait sees more than 400 vessels a day.
The North Sea coasts are home to numerous canals and canal systems to facilitate traffic between and among rivers, artificial harbours, and the sea. The Kiel Canal, connecting the North Sea with the Baltic Sea, is the most heavily used artificial seaway in the world. It saves an average of 250 nautical miles (460 km; 290 mi), instead of the voyage around the Jutland Peninsula. The North Sea Canal connects Amsterdam with the North Sea

Further reading
Starkey, David J.; Morten Hahn-Pedersen (2005). Bridging troubled waters: Conflict and co-operation in the North Sea Region since 1550.

Esbjerg [Denmark]: Fiskeri-og Søfartsmuseets. ISBN 8790982304.

Ilyina, Tatjana P (2007). The fate of persistent organic pollutants in the North Sea multiple year model simulations of [gamma]-HCH, [alpha]-HCH and PCB 153Tatjana P Ilyina;. Berlin ; New York: Springer. ISBN 9783540681632.

Karlsdóttir, Hrefna M. (2005). Fishing on common grounds: the consequences of unregulated fisheries of North Sea Herring in the postwar period. Göteborg: Ekonomisk-Historiska Inst., Göteborg Univ.. ISBN 9185196622.

Tiedeke, Thorsten; Werner Weiler (2007). North Sea coast: landscape panoramas. Nelson: NZ Visitor; Lancaster: Gazelle Drake Academic. ISBN 9781877339653.

ed. by Erik Thoen ... (2007). Rural history in the North Sea area: a state of the art (Middle Ages - beginning 20th century). Turnhout: Brepols. ISBN 9782503510057.

Waddington, Clive; Kristian Pedersen (2007). Mesolithic studies in the North Sea Basin and beyond: proceedings of a conference held at Newcastle in 2003. Oxford: Oxbow Books. ISBN 1842172247.

Zeelenberg, Sjoerd (2005). Offshore wind energy in the North Sea Region: the state of affairs of offshore wind energy projects, national policies and economic, environmental and technological conditions in Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and the United Kingdom. Groningen: University of Groningen. OCLC 71640714

This is a list of the languages spoken on the shores of the North Sea.
All are Germanic
The Germanic languages in Europe
Bright Green:Dutch (Low Franconian, West Germanic)
Mid Green:Low German (West Germanic)
Leaf Green: Central German (High German, West Germanic)
Dark Green: Upper German (High German, West Germanic)
Peach: Anglic (Anglo-Frisian, West Germanic)
Light Peach: Frisian (Anglo-Frisian, West Germanic)
Royal Blue: East Scandinavian
Light Blue: West Scandinavian
Rose Red: Line dividing the North and West Germanic languages.

North Germanic languages
Danish language Jutlandish Norwegian language
Anglo-Frisian languages
English language English English Estuary English Highland English Norfolk dialect Scottish English Yorkshire dialect and accent Frisian languages North Frisian language West Frisian language Scots language Doric Northern Scots Orcadian dialect Shetlandic

High German languages
Standard German Yiddish
Low Franconian languages
Dutch language Brabantian Hollandic Zeelandic West Flemish
Low GermanLow German

Extinct languages
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. The pink area is Old Gutnish and the green area is the extent of the other Germanic languages with which Old Norse still retained some mutual intelligibility
The following languages are either extinct, or no longer used on the North Sea coast
Old Norse (North Germanic)
Norn language
Pictish language (Celtic)
Scottish Gaelic language (Celtic)

The English Channel

The English Channel (French: La Manche, "the sleeve") 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. 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).

The length of the Channel is most often defined as the line between Land's End and Ushant at the (arbitrarily defined) western end, and the Strait of Dover at the eastern end. The strait is also the Channel's narrowest point, while its widest point lies between Lyme Bay and the Gulf of Saint Malo near the midpoint of the waterway. It is relatively shallow, with an average depth of about 120 m (390 ft) at its widest part, reducing to about 45 m (150 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. 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).

French Side: Le Havre

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.
The Celtic Sea forms its western border.
For the UK Shipping Forecast the English Channel is divided into the areas of (from the West):
Plymouth Portland Wight Dover


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". 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.
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: "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. 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".) 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.

Modern Crossing: Swimming or the Ferry

The channel has been the key natural defence for Britain, halting invading armies whilst in conjunction with control of the North Sea allowing her 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, the Norman Conquest in 1066 and the invasion and conquest of Britain by Dutch troops under William III in 1688, whilst the concentration of excellent harbours in the Western Channel on Britain's south coast made possible the largest invasion of all times: 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. 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 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 enter early Anglo-Saxons rendered 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.

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.
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.
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. One 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." However on July 25 1909 Louis Bleriot successfully made the first Channel crossing from Calais to Dover in an airplane. Bleriot's crossing immediately signaled 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, 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.

Unloading the Mail by hand from the Francis Drake in 1929

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 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.

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). 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.

US soldiers on their way to embark at Weymouth

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
Brighton: 155,919 ----------------------------------Worthing: 96,964
Hove: 72,335

Littlehampton: 55,716 -------------------------------
Lancing–Sompting: 30,360
Portsmouth: 442,252, including Gosport: 79,200
Bournemouth & Poole: 383,713

Southampton: 304,400
Plymouth: 243,795 ----------------------------
Torbay (Torquay): 129,702
Hastings–Bexhill: 126,386
Eastbourne: 106,562
Bognor Regis: 62,141

Folkestone–Hythe: 60,039
Weymouth: 56,043
Dover: 39,078 ---------------------------------------
Exmouth: 32,972
Falmouth–Penryn: 28,801
Ryde: 22,806

St Austell: 22,658
Seaford: 21,851
Falmouth: 21,635
Penzance: 20,255 ------------------------------------

French side

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

Le Havre: 248,547 inhabitants
Calais: 104,852 ----------------------------------------
Boulogne-sur-Mer: 92,704
Cherbourg: 89,704

Saint-Brieuc: 85,849
Saint-Malo: 50,675 --------------------------------

Lannion–Perros-Guirec: 48,990
Dieppe: 42,202 ---------------------------------
Morlaix: 35,996
Dinard: 25,006
Étaples–Le Touquet-Paris-Plage: 23,994
Fécamp: 22,717
Eu–Le Tréport: 22,019
Trouville-sur-Mer–Deauville: 20,406
Berck: 20,113
Channel Islands
Saint Helier: 28,310 inhabitants ----------------
Saint Peter Port: 16,488 inhabitants

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, 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 :
Breton (Brezhoneg) - "Mor Breizh" (Sea of Brittany)
Cornish (Kernewek) - "Chanel"

Germanic languages
Dutch - "het Kanaal" (the Channel) Dutch previously had a larger range, and extended into parts of the modern-day French state.
Romance languages
French language - "La Manche"
Gallo Norman, including the Channel Island vernaculars -
Anglo-Norman (extinct, but still fossilised in certain English law phrases)
Auregnais (extinct)
Cotentinais -
Maunche Guernesiais -
Ch'nal Jèrriais -
Ch'na Sercquais
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"

Hastings Harbour, Kent

St. Peter Port, Guernsey

Bournemouth Beach, Dorset

Eastbourne, Kent

Exmouth Harbour, Devon

Folkstone, Kent

Weymouth, Dorset