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A bay is a recessed,
coast The coast, also known as the coastline or seashore, is defined as the area where land meets the ocean, or as a line that forms the boundary between the land and the coastline. The Earth has around of coastline. Coasts are important zones in n ...
al body of water that directly connects to a larger main body of water, such as an
ocean The ocean (also the sea or the world ocean) is the body of Saline water, salt water that covers approximately 70.8% of the surface of Earth and contains 97% of Water distribution on Earth, Earth's water. An ocean can also refer to any of the ...
, a
lake A lake is an area filled with water, localized in a Depression (geology), basin, surrounded by land, and distinct from any river or other outlet that serves to feed or drain the lake. Lakes lie on land and are not part of the World Ocean, oce ...
, or another bay. A large bay is usually called a gulf, sea,
sound In physics, sound is a vibration that propagates as an acoustic wave, through a transmission medium such as a gas, liquid or solid. In human physiology and psychology, sound is the ''reception'' of such waves and their ''perception'' by the ...
, or bight. A
cove A cove is a small type of bay or coastal inlet. Coves usually have narrow, restricted entrances, are often circular or oval, and are often situated within a larger bay. Small, narrow, sheltered bays, inlets, creek (tidal), creeks, or recesses in ...
is a small, circular bay with a narrow entrance. A
fjord In physical geography, a fjord or fiord () is a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created by a glacier. Fjords exist on the coasts of Alaska, Antarctica, British Columbia, Chile, Denmark, Förden and East Jutland Fjorde, Germany, Gr ...
is an elongated bay formed by glacial action. A bay can be the
estuary An estuary is a partially enclosed coastal body of brackish water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea. Estuaries form a transition zone between river environments and maritime environment ...
of a river, such as the
Chesapeake Bay The Chesapeake Bay ( ) is the largest estuary in the United States. The Bay is located in the Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic region and is primarily separated from the Atlantic Ocean by the Delmarva Peninsula (including the parts: the ...
, an estuary of the
Susquehanna River The Susquehanna River (; Unami language, Lenape: Siskëwahane) is a major river located in the Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, overlapping between the lower Northeastern United States, Northeast and the Upl ...
. Bays may also be nested within each other; for example, James Bay is an arm of
Hudson Bay Hudson Bay ( crj, text=ᐐᓂᐯᒄ, translit=Wînipekw; crl, text=ᐐᓂᐹᒄ, translit=Wînipâkw; iu, text=ᑲᖏᖅᓱᐊᓗᒃ ᐃᓗᐊ, translit=Kangiqsualuk ilua or iu, text=ᑕᓯᐅᔭᕐᔪᐊᖅ, translit=Tasiujarjuaq; french: b ...
in northeastern Canada. Some large bays, such as the
Bay of Bengal The Bay of Bengal is the northeastern part of the Indian Ocean, bounded on the west and northwest by India, on the north by Bangladesh, and on the east by Myanmar and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India. Its southern limit is a line between ...
and Hudson Bay, have varied marine geology. The land surrounding a bay often reduces the strength of
wind Wind is the natural movement of atmosphere of Earth, air or other gases relative to a planetary surface, planet's surface. Winds occur on a range of scales, from thunderstorm flows lasting tens of minutes, to local breezes generated by heating ...
s and blocks
wave In physics, mathematics, and related fields, a wave is a propagating dynamic disturbance (change from List of types of equilibrium, equilibrium) of one or more quantities. Waves can be Periodic function, periodic, in which case those quantities ...
s. Bays may have as wide a variety of shoreline characteristics as other shorelines. In some cases, bays have
beaches A beach is a landform alongside a body of water which consists of loose particles. The particles composing a beach are typically made from Rock (geology), rock, such as sand, gravel, shingle beach, shingle, pebbles, etc., or biological so ...
, which "are usually characterized by a steep upper foreshore with a broad, flat fronting terrace".Maurice Schwartz, ''Encyclopedia of Coastal Science'' (2006), p. 129. Bays were significant in the history of
human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, locality or populated place is a community in which people live. The complexity of a settlement can range from a minuscule number of dwellings grouped together to the largest of cities ...
because they provided safe places for
fishing Fishing is the activity of trying to catch fish. Fish are often caught as wildlife from the natural environment, but may also be caught from fish stocking, stocked bodies of water such as fish pond, ponds, canals, park wetlands and reservoirs. ...
. Later they were important in the development of sea
trade Trade involves the transfer of goods and services from one person or entity to another, often in exchange for money. Economists refer to a system or network that allows trade as a market (economics), market. An early form of trade, barter, s ...
as the safe
anchor An anchor is a device, normally made of metal , used to secure a Watercraft, vessel to the Seabed, bed of a body of water to prevent the craft from drifting due to Leeway, wind or Ocean current, current. The word derives from Latin ''ancora' ...
age they provide encouraged their selection as
port A port is a maritime law, maritime facility comprising one or more Wharf, wharves or loading areas, where ships load and discharge Affreightment, cargo and passengers. Although usually situated on a sea coast or estuary, ports can a ...
s.


Definition

The
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea Treaty, is an Treaty, international agreement that establishes a legal framework for all marine and maritime activities. ...
defines a bay as a well-marked indentation in the coastline, whose penetration is in such proportion to the width of its mouth as to contain land-locked waters and constitute more than a mere curvature of the coast. An indentation, however, shall not be regarded as a bay unless its area is as large as (or larger than) that of the semi-circle whose
diameter In geometry, a diameter of a circle is any straight line segment that passes through the center of the circle and whose endpoints lie on the circle. It can also be defined as the longest Chord (geometry), chord of the circle. Both definitions a ...
is a line drawn across the mouth of that indentation — otherwise it would be referred to as a bight.


Types

* Open bay — a bay that is widest at the mouth, flanked by
headland A headland, also known as a head, is a coastal landform, a point of land usually high and often with a sheer drop, that extends into a body of water. It is a type of promontory. A headland of considerable size often is called a Cape (geography), c ...
s. * Enclosed bay — a bay whose mouth is narrower than its widest part, flanked by at least one
peninsula A peninsula (; ) is a landform that extends from a mainland and is surrounded by water on most, but not all of its borders. A peninsula is also sometimes defined as a piece of land bordered by water on three of its sides. Peninsulas exist on all ...
. * Semi-enclosed bay — an open bay whose exit is made into narrower channels by one or more
island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habitat, such as water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atolls can be called islets, skerries, cays or keys. An island ...
s within its mouth.


Formation

There are various ways in which bays can form. The largest bays have developed through
plate tectonics Plate tectonics (from the la, label=Late Latin, tectonicus, from the grc, τεκτονικός, lit=pertaining to building) is the generally accepted scientific theory that considers the Earth's lithosphere to comprise a number of large te ...
. As the super-continent
Pangaea Pangaea or Pangea () was a supercontinent that existed during the late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic eras. It assembled from the earlier continental units of Gondwana, Euramerica and Siberia (continent), Siberia during the Carboniferous approx ...
broke up along curved and indented fault lines, the continents moved apart and left large bays; these include the
Gulf of Guinea The Gulf of Guinea is the northeasternmost part of the tropical Atlantic Ocean The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's five oceans, with an area of about . It covers approximately 20% of Earth's surface and about 29% of its ...
, the
Gulf of Mexico The Gulf of Mexico ( es, Golfo de México) is an ocean basin and a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean, largely surrounded by the North American continent. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United ...
, and the
Bay of Bengal The Bay of Bengal is the northeastern part of the Indian Ocean, bounded on the west and northwest by India, on the north by Bangladesh, and on the east by Myanmar and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India. Its southern limit is a line between ...
, which is the world's largest bay. Bays also form through coastal
erosion Erosion is the action of surface processes (such as Surface runoff, water flow or wind) that removes soil, Rock (geology), rock, or dissolved material from one location on the Earth's crust#Crust, Earth's crust, and then sediment transport, tra ...
by rivers and
glacier A glacier (; ) is a persistent body of dense ice that is constantly moving under its own weight. A glacier forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its Ablation#Glaciology, ablation over many years, often Century, centuries. It acquires dis ...
s. A bay formed by a glacier is a
fjord In physical geography, a fjord or fiord () is a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created by a glacier. Fjords exist on the coasts of Alaska, Antarctica, British Columbia, Chile, Denmark, Förden and East Jutland Fjorde, Germany, Gr ...
. Rias are created by rivers and are characterised by more gradual slopes. Deposits of softer rocks erode more rapidly, forming bays, while harder rocks erode less quickly, leaving
headland A headland, also known as a head, is a coastal landform, a point of land usually high and often with a sheer drop, that extends into a body of water. It is a type of promontory. A headland of considerable size often is called a Cape (geography), c ...
s.


See also

* *


References

{{Authority control Bodies of water Coastal and oceanic landforms Coastal geography Oceanographical terminology