A bay is a recessed, coastal body of water that directly connects to a
larger main body of water, such as an ocean, lake, or another
bay. A large bay is usually called a gulf, sea, sound, or
bight. A cove is a type of smaller bay with a circular inlet and
narrow entrance. A fjord is a particularly steep bay shaped by glacial
Bays can be the estuary of a river, such as the Chesapeake Bay, an
estuary of the Susquehanna River. Bays may also be nested within
each other; for example,
James Bay is an arm of
Hudson Bay in
northeastern Canada. Some large bays, such as the
Bay of Bengal
Bay of Bengal and
the Hudson Bay, have varied marine geology.
The land surrounding a bay often reduces the strength of winds and
blocks waves. Bays were significant in the history of human settlement
because they provided safe places for fishing. Later they were
important in the development of sea trade as the safe anchorage they
provide encouraged their selection as ports.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the
Sea (UNCLOS), also
called the Law of the Sea, defines a bay as a well-marked indentation
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 shall not, however, be regarded
as a bay unless its area is as large as, or larger than, that of the
semi-circle whose diameter is a line drawn across the mouth of that
There are various ways from which bays can be created. The largest
bays have developed as a result of plate tectonics. As the
Pangaea broke up along curved and indented fault
lines, the continents moved apart and the world's largest bays formed.
These include the Gulf of Guinea,
Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico and the
Bengal, which is the largest bay in the world.
Another way bays form is via glacial and river erosion. A bay
formed by a glacier is a fjord. Rias are created by rivers and are
characterised by more gradual slopes. Currents can make waves more
constant, and soft rocks speed erosion. Hard rock eroded less quickly,
leaving headlands. The
Gulf of California
Gulf of California is an example of a bay
created by plate tectonics as
Baja California peninsula moves away
from the Mexican mainland.
Headlands and bays
^ "Definition of BAY". Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved March 21,
^ a b "Chesapeake Bay, Maryland". Maryland Manual On-Line. Maryland
State Archives. November 28, 2016. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
^ ""bay"". Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. Retrieved
March 21, 2017.
^ a b c d Carreck, Rosalind, ed. (1982). The Family Encyclopedia of
Natural History. The Hamlyn Publishing Group. p. 202.
Headlands and bays
Large-scale coastal behaviour
Integrated coastal zone management
Region of freshwater influence