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Map of the Bay of Biscay.

The Bay of Biscay (Spanish: Golfo de Vizcaya and Mar Cant√°brico; French: Golfe de Gascognemarker; Basque: Bizkaiko Golkoa; Gascon: Golf de Gascougne) or the Cantabrian Sea is a gulf of the northeast Atlantic Oceanmarker located south of the Celtic Seamarker. It lies along the western coast of Francemarker from Brestmarker south to the Spanishmarker border, and the northern coast of Spain west to Punta de Estaca de Baresmarker, and is named for the Spanish province of Biscay.

The average depth is and maximum depth is .


Parts of the continental shelf extend far into the bay, resulting in fairly shallow water in many areas and thus in the rough seas for which the region is known. The Bay of Biscay is home to some of the Atlantic Oceanmarker's fiercest weather. Large storms occur in the bay, especially during the winter months. Up until recent years it was a regular occurrence for merchant vessels to founder in Biscay storms, and many lives were lost. Improved ships and weather prediction have reduced the toll of the storms.


The main rivers that end in the Bay of Biscay are:


As in many West coasts, the phenomenon of June Gloom is common. 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 arefinally reborn in the form of powerful thunderstorms as they reach the Mediterranean. These depressions cause severe weather at sea and bring light though very constant rain to its shores (known as orballo in northern Spain). Sometimes powerful windstorms form if the pressure falls rapidly, traveling along the Gulf Stream at great speed, resembling a hurricane, and finally crashing in this bay with its maximum power, such as the Klaus storm.

The Gulf Stream enters the bay following the continental shelf's border counterclockwise (the Rennell Current), keeping temperatures smooth all year long.

Main cities

The main cities on the shores of the Bay of Biscay are:


The southern end of the gulf is also called in Spanish "Mar Cant√°brico" (Cantabrian Sea), for the region of Cantabriamarker, but this name is not generally used in English. It was named by Romans in 1st century BC as Sinus Cantabrorum (Bay of the Cantabri).

On some medieval maps, the Bay of Biscay is marked as El Mar del los Vascos, the Basque Sea. The Bay of Biscay is the birthplace of what is considered one of the world's most successful and most renowned maritime industries, the Basque and Cantabrian shipbuilders and fishermen.

The Britishmarker yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur finished her first trip around the world here, and there is a famous song based on this.


The car ferries from Portsmouthmarker to Bilbaomarker and from Plymouthmarker, Portsmouthmarker and Poolemarker to Santandermarker provide one of the most convenient ways to see cetaceans in European waters, and there are often specialist trips on board.

Volunteers and employees from the Biscay Dolphin Research Programme use the bridge of the vessel on the P&O Portsmouth to Bilbao run to observe and monitor cetacean activity. Many species of whales and dolphins can be seen in this area but it is one of the few places where the beaked whales such as the Cuvier's beaked whale have been observed„ÄÄrelatively frequently. This is the best study area for beaked whales in the world.

The best areas to see the larger cetaceans are those over deep water off 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.

The alga Colpomenia peregrina was introduced and first noticed by oyster fishermen in the Bay of Biscay in 1906.


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