Coordinates: 45°30′N 04°20′W / 45.500°N 4.333°W /
Biscay (/ˈbɪskeɪ, -ki/; French: Golfe de Gascogne,
Spanish: Golfo de Vizcaya, Breton: Pleg-mor Gwaskogn, Basque: Bizkaiko
Golkoa) is a gulf of the northeast
Atlantic Ocean located south of the
Celtic Sea. It lies along the western coast of
France from Point
Penmarc'h to the Spanish border, and the northern coast of
to Cape Ortegal.
The south area of the
Biscay washes the northern coast of Spain
and is known as the Cantabrian Sea.
The average depth is 1,744 metres (5,722 ft) and the greatest
depth is 4,735 metres (15,535 ft).
2.4 Main cities
4.1 Marine mammals
5 See also
7 External links
Biscay is named (for English speakers) after
Biscay on the
northern Spanish coast, probably standing for the western Basque
Biscay up to the early 19th century). Its name in other
Asturian: Golfu de Biscaya
Basque: Bizkaiko golkoa
Breton: Pleg-mor Gwaskogn
French: Golfe de Gascogne (named after Gascony, France)
Galician: Golfo de Biscaia
Gascon Occitan: Golf de Gasconha
Spanish: Golfo de Vizcaya (Mar Cantábrico for the ocean area closer
to the Spanish coast, the Cantabrian Sea)
Bathymetric map of the
Bay and its surroundings
Spanish coast along the
Bay of Biscay
Phytoplankton bloom along the
Biscay (photograph by Terra (EOS
Biarritz Beach (French Basque Country)
Parts of the continental shelf extend far into the bay, resulting in
fairly shallow waters in many areas and thus the rough seas for which
the region is known. Large storms occur in the bay, especially during
the winter months. The
Biscay is home to some of the Atlantic
Ocean's fiercest weather; abnormally high waves occur there. Up
until recent years it was a regular occurrence for merchant vessels to
International Hydrographic Organization
International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the
Biscay as "a line joining Cap Ortegal (43°46′N 7°52′W
/ 43.767°N 7.867°W / 43.767; -7.867) to Penmarch Point
(47°48′N 4°22′W / 47.800°N 4.367°W / 47.800;
The southernmost portion is the Cantabrian Sea.
The main rivers that empty into the
Biscay are Loire, Charente,
Garonne, Dordogne, Adour, Nivelle, Bidasoa, Oiartzun, Urumea, Oria,
Urola, Deba, Artibai, Lea, Oka, Nervión, Agüera, Asón, Miera, Pas,
Saja, Nansa, Deva, Sella, Nalón, Navia, Esva, Eo, Landro and Sor.
In late spring and early summer a large fog triangle fills the
southwestern half of the bay, covering just a few kilometres inland.
As winter begins, weather becomes severe. Depressions enter from the
west very frequently and they either bounce north to the British Isles
or they enter the Ebro Valley, dry out, and are finally reborn in the
form of powerful thunderstorms as they reach the Mediterranean Sea.
These depressions cause severe weather at sea and bring light though
very constant rain to its shores (known as orballo, sirimiri, morrina,
orbayu, orpin or calabobos). Sometimes powerful windstorms form if the
pressure falls rapidly (Galernas), traveling along the
Gulf Stream at
great speed, resembling a hurricane, and finally crashing in this bay
with their maximum power, such as the Klaus storm.
Gulf Stream enters the bay following the continental shelf's
border anti-clockwise (the Rennell Current), keeping temperatures
moderate all year long.
The main cities on the shores of the
Biscay are Bordeaux,
Bayonne, Biarritz, Brest, Nantes, La Rochelle, Donostia-San
Sebastián, Bilbao, Santander,
Gijón and Avilés.
The southern end of the gulf is also called in Spanish "Mar
Cantábrico" (Cantabrian Sea), from the Estaca de Bares, as far as the
Adour river, but this name is not generally used in English.
It was named by Romans in the 1st century BC as Sinus Cantabrorum (Bay
of the Cantabri) and also, Mare Gallaecum (the Sea of the Galicians).
On some medieval maps, the
Biscay is marked as El Mar del los
Vascos (the Basque Sea).
Biscay has been the site of many famous naval engagements
over the centuries. In 1592 the Spanish defeated an English fleet
during the eponymous Battle of the
Bay of Biscay. The
of June 1795 consisted of a series of manoeuvres and two battles
fought between the British
Channel Fleet and the French Atlantic Fleet
off the southern coast of
Brittany during the second year of the
French Revolutionary Wars. The USS Californian sank here after
striking a naval mine on 22 June 1918. In 1920 the SS Afrique
sank after losing power and drifting into a reef in a storm with the
loss of 575 lives. On 28 December 1943, the Battle of the
Biscay was fought between HMS Glasgow and HMS Enterprise and a group
of German destroyers as part of
Operation Stonewall during World War
II. U-667 sank on 25 August 1944 in position 46°00′N 01°30′W
/ 46.000°N 1.500°W / 46.000; -1.500, when she struck a mine.
All hands were lost.
On 12 April 1970,
Soviet submarine K-8 sank in the
to a fire that crippled the submarine's nuclear reactors. An attempt
to save the sub failed, resulting in the death of forty sailors and
the loss of four nuclear torpedoes. Due to the great depth (15,000
feet), no salvage operation was attempted.
The coast of the
Biscay – San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
The car ferries from
Gijón to Nantes/Saint-Nazaire,
Bilbao and from Plymouth,
Poole to Santander provide
one of the most convenient ways to see cetaceans in European waters.
Often specialist groups take the ferries to hear more information.
Volunteers and employees of ORCA regularly observe and monitor
cetacean activity from the bridge of the ships on
Portsmouth to Santander route. Many species of whales and dolphins can
be seen in this area. Most importantly, it is one of the few places
where the beaked whales, such as the Cuvier's beaked whale, have been
observed relatively frequently. This is the best study area in the
world for beaked whales. Historically,
monitored cetacean activity from the P&O Ferries cruiseferry Pride
of Bilbao, on voyages from
Portsmouth to Bilbao.
North Atlantic Right Whales, one of the most endangered whales, once
came to the bay for feeding and probably for calving as well, but
whaling activities by Basques and others almost wiped them out
sometime prior to 1850s. In modern days, the eastern population of
this species are considered to be almost extinct, and there has been
no record of right whales in the
Biscay except for possible few
sightings made in modern time, a pair which was possibly a mother-calf
pair in 1977 at 43°00′N 10°30′W / 43.000°N 10.500°W /
43.000; -10.500, and another pair in earlier June 1980 seen by
merchantmen. Other records in the late 20th century include one off
Galicia at 43°00′N 10°30′W / 43.000°N 10.500°W /
43.000; -10.500 in September 1977 reported by a whaling company and
another one seen off the Iberian Peninsula.
The best areas to see the larger cetaceans lie in the deep waters
beyond the continental shelf, particularly over the Santander Canyon
and Torrelavega Canyon in the south of the Bay.
The three-day round trip also gives sightings of good numbers of
several species of seabirds, particularly gannets.
Colpomenia peregrina was introduced and first noticed in 1906
by oyster fishermen in the
Bay of Biscay.
Grammatostomias flagellibarba commonly known as the scaleless
dragonfish are native to these waters.
Bay of Biscay". Eoearth.org. Archived from the original on
2015-07-20. Retrieved 2015-07-17.
^ A Summary of Wave Data Needs and Availability: A Report. 1979.
p. 7. The Gulf Steam off Cape Hatteras, the Gulf of Alaska, the
English Channel, and the
Biscay are some of the other areas
where storms and current combine to produce abnormally high, steep
^ "Limits of Oceans and Seas, 3rd edition + corrections" (PDF).
International Hydrographic Organization. 1971. p. 42 [corrections
to page 13]. Retrieved 6 February 2010.
^ "El mar de los vascos, II: del Golfo de Vizcaya al Mediterráneo"
(PDF). Euskomedia.org. Retrieved 2015-07-17.
^ "USS Californian (1918–1918)". History.navy.mil. Archived from the
original on 2004-12-24. Retrieved 2015-07-17.
^ Reeves, R.R. & Mitchell, E. (1986). "American pelagic whaling
for right whales in the North Atlantic" (PDF). Report of the
International Whaling Commission (
Special Issue 10): 221–254.
Retrieved 2013-10-09. [permanent dead link]
^ Froese, R. and D. Pauly, eds. (2016). "Grammatostomias
flagellibarba". FishBase. Archived from the original on
2015-08-25. CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
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