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Facts about the English Channel for Kids

The English Channel, often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the English Channel.

  • The IHO defines the southwestern limit of the North Sea as “a line joining the Walde Lighthouse and Leathercoat Point”.
  • The Strait of Dover, 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.
  • From there eastwards the adjoining North Sea continues to shallow to about 85 ft in the Broad Fourteens where it lies over the watershed of the former land bridge between East Anglia and the Low Countries.
  • There are several major islands in the Channel, the most notable being the Isle of Wight off the English coast, and the Channel Islands, British Crown Dependencies off the coast of France.
  • It destroyed the isthmus that connected Britain to continental Europe, although a land bridge across the southern North Sea would have existed intermittently at later times after periods of glaciation resulted in lower sea levels.
  • The French name la Manche has been in use since at least the 17th century.
  • Before the end of the Devensian glaciation around 10,000 years ago, the British Isles were part of continental Europe.
  • As the meltwater could still not escape to the north the outflow channel from the lake entered the Atlantic Ocean in the region of Dover and Calais.
  • The Channel has been the key natural defence for Britain, halting invading armies while in conjunction with control of the North Sea allowing Britain to blockade the continent.
  • The fiefdom of Normandy was created for the Viking leader Rollo.
  • 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 Scandinavians, Hiberno-Norse, Orcadians, Anglo-Danish, and indigenous Franks and Gauls.
  • However on July 25, 1909 Louis Blériot successfully made the first Channel crossing from Calais to Dover in an airplane.
  • 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 Atlanticvia the much longer route around Scotland.
  • 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 to France on 24–25 August 1875 in 21 hours 45 minutes.
  • In 1927, at a time when fewer than ten swimmers 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.