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Satellite view of the English Channel
The English Channel ( , "the sleeve") is an arm of the Atlantic Oceanmarker that separates Englandmarker from northern Francemarker, and joins the North Seamarker to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest, to only in the Strait of Dovermarker. It is the smallest of the shallow seas around the continental shelf of Europe, covering an area of some .


Map of the English Channel

The length of the Channel is most often defined as the line between Land's Endmarker and Ushantmarker at the (arbitrarily defined) western end, and the Strait of Dover at the eastern end. The strait is also the Channel's narrowest point, while its widest point lies between Lyme Baymarker and the Gulf of Saint Malomarker near the midpoint of the waterway. It is relatively shallow, with an average depth of about at its widest part, reducing to a depth of about between Dovermarker and Calaismarker. From there eastwards the adjoining North Sea continues to shallow to about in the Broad Fourteensmarker where it lies over the watershed of the former land bridge between East Angliamarker and the Low Countries. It reaches a maximum depth of in the submerged valley of Hurds Deepmarker, west-northwest of Guernseymarker.

The eastern region along the French coast between Cherbourgmarker and the mouth of the Seine rivermarker at Le Havremarker is frequently referred to as the Bay of the Seine ( ).

Several major islands are situated in the Channel, the most notable being the Isle of Wightmarker off the English coast and the British crown dependencies the Channel Islands off the coast of France. The Isles of Scillymarker off the far southwest coast of England are not generally counted as being in the Channel. The coastline, particularly on the French shore, is deeply indented. The Cotentin Peninsulamarker in France juts out into the Channel, and the Isle of Wight creates a small parallel channel known as the Solentmarker.

The Channel is of geologically recent origins, having been dry land for most of the Pleistocene period. It is thought to have been created between 450,000 and 180,000 years ago by two catastrophic glacial lake outburst floods caused by the breaching of the Weald-Artois Anticline, a ridge which held back a large proglacial lake in the Doggerland region, now submerged under the North Sea. The flood would have lasted several months, releasing as much as one million cubic metres of water per second. The cause of the breach is not known but may have been caused by an earthquake or simply the build-up of water pressure in the lake. As well as destroying the isthmus that connected Britain to continental Europe, the flood carved a large bedrock-floored valley down the length of the English Channel, leaving behind streamlined islands and longitudinal erosional grooves characteristic of catastrophic megaflood events.The Celtic Seamarker forms its western border.

For the UK Shipping Forecast the English Channel is divided into the areas of (from the West):


Map with French nomenclature
The name "English Channel" has been widely used since the early 18th century, possibly originating from the designation "Engelse Kanaal" in Dutchmarker sea maps from the 16th century onwards. It has also been known as the "British Channel". Prior to then it was known as the British Sea, and it was called the "Oceanus Britannicus" by the 2nd century geographer Ptolemy. The same name is used on an Italian map of about 1450 which gives the alternative name of "canalites Anglie"—possibly the first recorded use of the "Channel" designation.

The French name "La Manche" has been in use since at least the 17th century. The name is usually said to refer to the Channel's sleeve (French: "manche") shape. However, it is sometimes claimed to instead derive from a Celtic word meaning "channel" that is also the source of the name for The Minchmarker, in Scotlandmarker. In Spain and most Spanish speaking countries the Channel is referred to as "El Canal de la Mancha". In Portuguese it is known as "O Canal da Mancha". (This is not a translation from French: in Portuguese, as well as in Spanish, "mancha" means "stain", while the word for sleeve is "manga"-which prompts an early phonetic bad translation from French-). Other languages also use this name, such as Greek (Κανάλι της Μάγχης) and Italian (la Manica).

In Breton it is known as "Mor Breizh" (the Sea of Brittany), tied to the Latin and indicative in origins for the name Armorica.


Before the end of the Devensian glaciation (the most recent ice age) around 10,000 years ago, the British Isles were part of continental Europe. During this period the North Seamarker and almost all of the British Isles were covered with ice. The sea level was about 120 m lower than it is today, and the channel was an expanse of low-lying tundra, through which passed a river which drained the Rhinemarker and Thames towards the Atlantic to the west. As the ice sheet melted, a large freshwater lake formed in the southern part of what is now the North Sea. As the meltwater could still not escape to the north (as the northern North Sea was still frozen) 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 her to blockade the continent. The most significant failed invasion threats came when the Dutch and Belgian ports were held by a major continental power, e.g. from the Spanish Armada in 1588, Napoleon during the Napoleonic Wars, and Nazi Germany during World War II. Successful invasions include the Roman conquest of Britain, the Norman Conquest in 1066 and the invasion and conquest of Britain by Dutch troops under William III in 1688, while the concentration of excellent harbours in the Western Channel on Britain's south coast made possible the largest invasion of all time: the Normandy landings in 1944. Channel naval battles include the Battle of Goodwin Sandsmarker (1652), the Battle of Portlandmarker (1653), the Battle of La Hougue (1692) and the engagement between USS Kearsarge and CSS Alabamamarker (1864).

In more peaceful times the channel served as a link joining shared cultures and political structures, particularly the huge Angevin Empire from 1135–1217.For nearly a thousand years, the Channel also provided a link between the Modern Celtic regions and languages of Cornwallmarker and Brittany. Brittany was founded by Britons who fled Cornwallmarker and Devonmarker after Anglo-Saxon encroachment. In Brittany, there is a region known as "Cornouaille" (Cornwall) in French and "Kernev" in Breton Anciently there was also a "Domnonia" (Devon) in Brittany as well.

Route to the British Isles

Diodorus Siculus and Pliny both suggest trade between the rebel celtic tribes of Armorica and Iron Age Britain flourished. In 55 BC Julius Caesar invaded claiming that the Britons had aided the Veneti against him the previous year. He was more successful in 54 BC, but Britain was not fully established as part of the Roman Empire until completion of the invasion by Aulus Plautius in 43 AD. A brisk and regular trade began between ports in Roman Gaul and those in Britain. This traffic continued until the Roman departure from Britain in 410 AD, after which we enter early Anglo-Saxons rendered less clear historical records.

In the power vacuum left by the retreating Romans, the Germanic Angles, Saxons, and Jutes began the next great migration across the North Sea. Having already been used as mercenaries in Britain by the Romans, many people from these tribes migrated across the North Sea during the Migration Period, conquering and perhaps displacing the native Celtic populations.

Norsemen and Normans

The attack on Lindisfarnemarker in 793 is generally considered the beginning of the Viking Age. For the next 250 years the Scandinavian raiders of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark dominated the North Sea, raiding monasteries, homes, and towns along the coast and along the rivers that ran inland. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle they began to settle in Britain in 851. They continued to settle in the British Islesmarker and the continent until around 1050.

The fiefdom of Normandy was created for the Viking leader Rollo (also known as Robert of Normandy). Rollo had besieged Parismarker but in 911 entered vassalage to the king of the West Franks Charles the Simple through the Treaty of St.-Claire-sur-Epte. In exchange for his homage and fealty, Rollo legally gained the territory he and his Viking allies had previously conquered. The name "Normandy" reflects Rollo's Viking (i.e. "Northman") origins.

The descendants of Rollo and his followers adopted the local Gallo-Romantic language and intermarried with the area’s previous inhabitants and became the Normans – a Norman French-speaking mixture of Scandinavians, Hiberno-Norse, Orcadiansmarker, Anglo-Danishmarker, and indigenous Franks and Gauls.

Rollo's descendant William, Duke of Normandy became king of England in 1066 in the Norman Conquest culminating at the Battle of Hastingsmarker while retaining the fiefdom of Normandy for himself and his descendants. In 1204, during the reign of King John, mainland Normandy was taken from England by France under Philip II while insular Normandy (the Channel Islands) remained under English control. In 1259, Henry III of England recognized the legality of French possession of mainland Normandy under the Treaty of Paris. His successors, however, often fought to regain control of mainland French Normandy.

With the rise of William the Conqueror the North Sea and Channel began to lose some of its importance. The new order oriented most of England and Scandinavia's trade south, toward the Mediterraneanmarker and the Orient.

Although the British surrendered claims to mainland Normandy and other French possessions in 1801, the monarch of the United Kingdom retains the title Duke of Normandy in respect to the Channel Islands. The Channel Islands (except for Chauseymarker) remain a Crown dependency of the British Crown in the present era. Thus the Loyal Toast in the Channel Islands is La Reine, notre Duc ("The Queen, our Duke"). The British monarch is understood to not be the Duke of Normandy in regards of the French region of Normandy described herein, by virtue of the Treaty of Paris of 1259, the surrender of French possessions in 1801, and the belief that the rights of succession to that title are subject to Salic Law which excludes inheritance through female heirs.

French Normandy was occupied by English forces during the Hundred Years' War in 1346–1360 and again in 1415–1450.

England & Britain: The naval superpowers

From the reign of Elizabeth I, English foreign policy concentrated on preventing invasion across the Channel by ensuring no major European power controlled the potential Dutch and Flemish invasion ports. Her climb to the pre-eminent sea power of the world began in 1588 as the attempted invasion of the Spanish Armada was defeated by the combination of outstanding naval tactics by the English under command of Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham with Sir Francis Drake second in command, and the following stormy weather. Over the centuries the Royal Navy slowly grew to be the most powerful in Europe.

The building of the British Empire was possible only because the Royal Navy exercised unquestioned control over the seas around Europe, especially the Channel and the North Sea. One significant challenge to British domination of the seas came during the Napoleonic Wars. The Battle of Trafalgarmarker took place off the coast of Spain against a combined French and Spanish fleet and was won by Admiral Horatio Nelson, ending Napoleon's plans for a cross-Channel invasion and securing British dominance of the seas for over a century.

First World War

The exceptional strategic importance of the Channel as a tool for blockade was recognised by the First Sea Lord Admiral Fisher in the years before World War I. "Five keys lock up the world! Singaporemarker, the Cape, Alexandriamarker, Gibraltar, Dover." However on July 25 1909 Louis Blériot successfully made the first Channel crossing from Calaismarker to Dovermarker in an airplane. Blériot's crossing immediately signalled the end of the Channel as a barrier-moat for England against foreign enemies.

Because the Kaiserliche Marine's surface fleet could not match the British Grand Fleet, the Germansmarker developed submarine warfare which was to become a far greater threat to Britain. 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 Atlantic via the much longer route around Scotlandmarker.

On land, the German army attempted to capture Channel ports (see "Race to the Sea") but although the trenches are often said to have stretched "from the frontier of Switzerland to the English Channel" in fact they reached the coast at the North Sea. Much of the British war effort in Flanders was a bloody but successful strategy to prevent the Germans reaching the Channel coast.

On 31 January 1917, the Germans restarted unrestricted submarine warfare leading to dire Admiralty predictions that submarines would defeat Britain by November, the most dangerous situation Britain faced in either World War.

The Battle of Passchendaelemarker in 1917, was fought to reduce the threat by capturing the submarine bases on the Belgian coast though it was the introduction of convoys and not capture of the bases that averted defeat. In April 1918 the Dover patrol carried out the famous Zeebrugge Raid against the U-boat bases. The Naval blockade effected via the Channel and North Sea was one of the decisive factors in the German defeat in 1918.

Second World War

During the Second World War, naval activity in the European theatre was primarily limited to the Atlantic. The early stages of the Battle of Britain featured air attacks on Channel shipping and ports, and until the Normandy landings with the exception of the Channel Dash the narrow waters were too dangerous for major warships. However, despite these early successes against shipping, the Germans did not win the air supremacy necessary for a cross Channel invasion.

The Channel subsequently became the stage for an intensive coastal war, featuring submarines, minesweepers, and Fast Attack Craft.

150 mm World War II German gun emplacement in Normandy.

The town of Dieppemarker was the site of the ill-fated Dieppe Raid by Canadianmarker and Britishmarker armed forces. More successful was the later Operation Overlord (also known as D-Day), a massive invasion of German-occupied France by Allied troops. Caenmarker, Cherbourgmarker, Carentanmarker, Falaisemarker and other Norman towns endured many casualties in the fight for the province, which continued until the closing of the so-called Falaise gapmarker between Chamboismarker and Montormel, then liberation of Le Havremarker.

The Channel Islands were the only part of the British Commonwealth occupied by Germany (excepting the part of Egyptmarker occupied by the Afrika Korps at the time of the Second Battle of El Alameinmarker, which was a protectorate and not part of the Commonwealth). The German occupation 1940–1945 was harsh, with some island residents being taken for slave labour on the Continent; native Jews sent to concentration camps; partisan resistance and retribution; accusations of collaboration; and slave labour (primarily Russiansmarker and eastern Europeans) being brought to the islands to build fortifications. The Royal Navy blockaded the islands from time to time, particularly following the liberation of mainland Normandymarker in 1944. Intense negotiations resulted in some Red Crossmarker humanitarian aid, but there was considerable hunger and privation during the five years of Germanmarker occupation particularly in the final months when the population was close to starvation. The German troops on the islands surrendered on 9 May 1945 only a few days after the final surrender in mainland Europe.


The English Channel is densely populated on both shores, on which are situated a number of major ports and resorts possessing a combined population of over 3.5 million people. The most significant towns and cities along the Channel (each with more than 20,000 inhabitants, ranked in descending order; populations are the urban area populations from the 1999 French census, 2001 UK census, and 2001 Jersey census) are as follows:

British side

French side

Channel Islands


The Channel, with traffic in both the UK-Europe and North Sea-Atlantic routes, is one of the world's busiest seaways carrying over 400 ships per day. Following an accident in January 1971 and a series of disastrous collisions with wreckage in February, the Dover Traffic Separation System (TSS) the world's first radar controlled TSS was set up by the International Maritime Organization.

In December 2002 the MV Tricolormarker, carrying £30m of luxury cars sank 32 km (20 mi) northwest of Dunkirk after collision in fog with the container ship Kariba. The cargo ship Nicola ran into the wreckage the next day. However, there was no loss of life.

The shore-based long range traffic control system was updated in 2003. Though the system is inherently incapable of reaching the levels of safety obtained from aviation systems such as the Traffic Collision Avoidance System, it has reduced accidents to one or two per year.

Marine GPS systems allow ships to be preprogrammed to follow navigational channels accurately and automatically, further avoiding risk of running aground, but following the fatal collision between Dutch Aquamarine and Ash in October 2001, Britain's Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) issued a safety bulletin saying it believed that in these most unusual circumstances GPS use had actually contributed to the collision. The ships were maintaining a very precise automated course, one directly behind the other, rather than making use of the full width of the traffic lanes as a human navigator would.

A combination of radar difficulties in monitoring areas near cliffs, a failure of a CCTV system, incorrect operation of the anchor, the inability of the crew to follow standard procedures of using a GPS to provide early warning of the ship dragging the anchor and reluctance to admit the mistake and start the engine led to the MV Willy running aground in Cawsand bay, Cornwallmarker in January 2002. The Marine Accident Investigation Branch report makes it clear that the harbour controllers were actually informed of impending disaster by shore observers even before the crew were themselves aware. The village of Kingsandmarker was evacuated for 3 days because of the risk of explosion, and the ship was stranded for 11 days.

The swimming organizations CS&PF and CSA have successfully lobbied to confine swimmers to their costly pilot boats ($4000 USD per trip). The result of this political lobbying is expressed in this document. . Despite this lobbying effort swimmers will note from this document that "However, in exceptional cases the French Maritime Authorities may grant authority for unorthodox craft to cross French territorial waters within the Traffic Separation Scheme when these craft set off from the British coast, on condition that the request for authorisation is sent to them with the opinion of the British Maritime Authorities". It is therefore possible to hire a non CSA or CS&PF pilot boat when swimming the channel.


As a busy shipping lane, the English Channel experiences environmental problems following accidents involving ships with toxic cargo and oil spills. Indeed over 40% of the UK incidents threatening pollution occur in or very near the Channel. One of the most infamous was the MSC Napoli, which with nearly 1700 tonnes of dangerous cargo was controversially beached in Lyme bay, a protected World Heritage Site coastline. The ship had been damaged and was en route to Portland when much nearer harbours were available.


View of the beach of Le Havre and a part of the rebuilt city


Important ferry routes are:
  • Dover-Calais
  • Dovermarker-Boulognemarker
  • Newhaven-Dieppe
  • Portsmouth-Caen (Ouistreham)
  • Portsmouth-Cherbourg
  • Portsmouth-Le Havre
  • Poole-Saint Malo
  • Poole-Cherbourg
  • Weymouth-Saint Malo
  • Plymouth-Roscoff

Channel Tunnel

Many travellers cross beneath the English Channel using the Channel Tunnelmarker. This engineering feat, first proposed in the early 19th century and finally realised in 1994, connects the UK and France by rail. It is now routine to travel between Parismarker or Brusselsmarker and Londonmarker on the Eurostar train. Cars can also travel on special trains between Folkestonemarker and Calaismarker.



The coastal resorts of the channel, such as Brightonmarker and Deauvillemarker, inaugurated an era of aristocratic tourism in the early 19th century, which developed into the seaside tourism that has shaped resorts around the world. Short trips across the channel for leisure purposes are often referred to as Channel Hopping.

Culture and languages

The two dominant cultures are English on the north shore of the Channel, and French on the south shore. However, there are also a number of minority languages that are/were found on the shores and islands of the English Channel, which are listed here, with the Channel's name following them.

Celtic Languages

Germanic languages
  • Dutch - "het Kanaal" (the Channel)

Dutch previously had a larger range, and extended into parts of the modern-day French state. For more information, please see French Flemish.

Romance languages

The English Channel has a variety of names in these languages. In Breton, it is known as Mor Breizh meaning the Sea of Brittany; in Norman, the Channel Island dialects use forms of "channel", e.g. Ch'nal, whereas the Mainland dialects tend more towards the French as in Maunche. In Dutch it is Het Kanaal (the channel).

Most other languages tend towards variants of the French and English forms, but notably Welsh has "Môr Udd"

Notable channel crossings

As one of the narrowest but most famous international waterways lacking dangerous currents, crossing the Channel has been the first objective of numerous innovative sea, air and human powered technologies.

Date Crossing Participant(s) Notes
7 January 1785 First crossing by air (in balloon, from Dover to Calais) Jean Pierre François Blanchard (France)
John Jeffries (U.S.)
15 June 1785 First air crash
(in combination hydrogen / hot-air balloon)
Pilâtre de Rozier (France) Pierre Romain (France) Attempted crossing similar to Blanchard/Jeffries
10 June 1821 Paddle steamer "Rob Roy", first passenger ferry to cross channel The steamer was purchased subsequently by the French postal administration and renamed "Henri IV".
June 1843 First ferry connection through Folkestone-Boulogne Commanding officer Captain Hayward
25 August 1875 First known person to swim the channel (Dover to Calais, 21 hrs, 45 min) Matthew Webb (UK) Attempted crossing on 12 August the same year; forced to abandon swim because of strong winds/rough sea conditions
27 March 1899 First radio transmission across the Channel (from (Wimereuxmarker to South Foreland Lighthousemarker) Guglielmo Marconi (Italy)
25 July 1909 First person to cross the channel in a heavier-than-air aircraft (the Blériot XI) (Calais to Dover, 37 minutes) Louis Blériot (France) Encouraged by £1000 prize being offered by the Daily Mail for first successful flight across the channel
23 August 1910 First aircraft flight with passengers John Bevins Moisant (U.S.) Passengers were mechanic Albert Fileux and Moisant's cat.
16 April 1912 First woman to fly across the English channel (Dover to Calais, 59 minutes) Harriet Quimby (US) Her accomplishment did not receive much media attention, as the Titanicmarker had sunk the evening before.
23 August 1926 First woman to swim across the channel (Cap Gris Nezmarker to Kingsdownmarker, 14 hours 39 minutes) Gertrude Ederle (US) Five men had successfully swum the channel before Ederle. Ederle beat their best time by two hours, creating a record for a female swimmer that stood until Florence Chadwick swam it in 13 hours 20 minutes in 1950.
25 July 1959 Hovercraft crossing (Calais to Dover, 2 hours 3 minutes) SR-N1 Sir Christopher Cockerell was on board
22 August 1972 First solo hovercraft crossing (same route as SR-N1; 2 hours 20 minutes) Nigel Beale (UK)
12 June 1979 First human-powered aircraft to fly over the channel
(in 55-pound (25 kg) Gossamer Albatross)
Bryan Allen (U.S.) Won a £100,000 Kremer Prize; Allen pedalled for three hours
14 September 1995 Fastest crossing by hovercraft, 22 minutes by "Princess Anne" MCH SR-N4 MkIII Craft was designed to work as a ferry
1997 First vessel to complete a solar-powered crossing using photovoltaic cells. SB Collinda
14 June 2004 New record time for crossing in amphibious vehicle (the Gibbs Aquada, two-seater open-top sports car) Richard Branson (UK) Completed crossing in 100 min 06 sec. Previous record was 6 hours.
31 July 2003 Crossing in a long freefall using a wingsuit and a carbon fibre wing Felix Baumgartner (Austria)
26 July 2006 New record time for crossing in hydrofoil car (the Rinspeed Splash, two-seater open-top sports car) Frank M. Rinderknecht (SUI) Completed crossing in 194 min
25 September 2006 First crossing on a towed inflatable object (not a powered inflatable boat) Stephen Preston (UK) Completed crossing in 180 min
July 2007 BBC Top Gear presenters drive to France in amphibious cars. Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May Completed the crossing in a 1996 Nissan D21 pickup (the "Nissank"), fitted with a Honda outboard engine.
26 September 2008 First crossing with a jetpack Yves Rossy (SUI) Crossing completed in less than ten minutes

By boat

Pierre Andriel crossed the English Channel aboard the Élise in 1815, one of the earliest sea going voyages by steam ship .

On June 10, 1821 English built paddle steamer "Rob Roy" was the first passenger ferry to cross channel. The steamer was purchased subsequently by the French postal administration and renamed "Henri IV" and put into regular passenger service a year later. It was able to make the journey across the Straits of Dover in around three hours.

In June 1843 because of difficulties with Dover harbour, the South Eastern Railway company developed Boulogne-sur-Mermarker-Folkestonemarker route as an alternative to Calais-Dover. The first ferry crossed under the command of Captain Hayward.

The Mountbatten class hovercraft (MCH) entered commercial service in August 1968 initially operated between Dover and Boulogne, but later craft also made the Ramsgatemarker (Pegwell Baymarker) to Calais route. The journey time, Dover to Boulogne, was roughly 35 minutes, with six trips per day at peak times. The fastest ever crossing of the English Channel by a commercial car-carrying hovercraft was 22 minutes, recorded by the Princess Anne MCH SR-N4 Mk3 on 14 September 1995, for the 10:00 am service .

The youngest recorded sailors to cross the channel by boat are Hugo Sunnucks and Guy Harrison aged 15 (formula 18 catamaran). They completed in 4 hours 15 mins in August 2006.

By swimming

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 August 1875 – 25 August 1875 in 21 hours and 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 (the CSA) was founded to authenticate and ratify swimmers' claims to have swum the English Channel and to verify crossing times. The CSA was dissolved in 1999 and was succeeded by two separate organisations: The CSA and the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation (CSPF). Both observe and authenticate cross-Channel swims in the Strait of Dover.

  • 24 August 1875 – 25 August 1875 Capt. Matthew Webb made the first crossing of the English Channel from England to France.
  • 12 August 1923 Enrico Tiraboschi made the first crossing of the English Channel from France to England.
  • 6 August 1926, Gertrude Ederle became the first woman to swim the Channel. She did it in 14 hours 31 minutes, breaking the men's record of the time by two hours. However, this swim attracted some controversy. On 16 August, The Westminster Gazette reported locals as saying that "Miss Ederle swam under the lea of one of the accompanying tugs" while another boat "navigated in such a manner as to keep the heavy seas and tides off her" and that "Miss Ederle was drawn along by the suction of the tug so that she was able to swim at about twice the speed she would have been able to swim under ordinary conditions." The Dover Express and East Kent News commented that "So far little information has been given of the detail of Miss Ederle's swim. The most extraordinary thing about it being that she made no westward drift with the ebb tide, which on the day in question ran westward for nearly seven hours."
  • 7 October 1927, Mercedes Gleitze became, at her eighth attempt, the first British woman to swim the channel. She swam from France to England in 15 hours 15 minutes. Because of a claim which was soon proven to be false, by Dr. Dorothy Cochrane Logan (using her professional name, Mona McLennan), to have swum the Channel on 11 October in the faster time of thirteen hours and ten minutes, Gleitze's own claim was cast into doubt. To silence the doubters, Gleitze decided to repeat her feat in what was called "the vindication swim". On 21 October she entered the water at Cap Gris Nez. But this time the water was much colder, and she was unable to complete the crossing. She was pulled semi-conscious from the water after 10 hours 24 minutes, some seven miles (11 km) short of the English shore. She might have been disappointed at not completing the swim, but after witnessing her strength, courage, and determination, nobody doubted the legitimacy of her previous swim, and she was hailed as a heroine. As she sat in the boat, one journalist made an incredible discovery and reported it in The Times as follows: "Hanging round her neck by a riband on this swim, Miss Gleitze carried a small gold watch, which was found this evening to have kept good time throughout." This was one of the first Rolex Oyster waterproof watches which the director of Rolex, Hans Wilsdorf, had asked her to wear during her repeat attempt, and her feat was subsequently used in advertising by Rolex.
  • Mihir Sen became the first Indian to swim the English Channel, from Dover to Calais on September 27 1958.
  • In 1961 Antonio Abertondo from Argentinamarker became the first person to swim the channel both ways non-stop.
  • 9 September 1969 Atina Bojadzi, the first Macedonian woman to swim the Channel (the first woman from Yugoslavia, and actually the Balcans). This event was inspiration for the cult Macedonian movie from 1977 "Ispravi se, Delfina" (
  • In July 1972, Lynne Cox became the youngest person to swim the English Channel at age fifteen, breaking both the men's and women's records. She swam the channel again in 1973, setting a new record time of nine hours thirty-six minutes.
  • The oldest verified male swimmer to cross is American George Brunstad, who was aged 70 years and 4 days when he crossed on 27 August and 28 August 2004, taking 15 hours 59 minutes.
  • The oldest male swimmer to cross under the rules of the Channel Swimming Association is Australian Clifford Batt, who was aged 67 years and 240 days when he crossed on 19 August 1987, taking 18 hours 37 minutes.
  • The fastest verified swim of the channel was by Petar Stoychev on 24 August 2007. He crossed the channel in 6 hours 57 minutes 50 seconds.
  • The fastest verified female channel swimmer is Yvetta Hlaváčová in 2006. She crossed the channel in 7 hours 25 minutes and 15 seconds.
  • The fastest verified two way channel swimmer, in a time of 16 hours 10 minutes, is Philip Rush in 1987.
  • The fastest verified female two way channel swimmer, in a time of 17 hours 14 minutes, is Susie Maroney in 1991.
  • The fastest verified three way channel swimmer is Philip Rush in 1987. He crossed the channel (England/France/England/France) in 28 hours 21 mins.
  • The fastest (and only) verified female three way channel swimmer is Alison Streeter in 1990. She crossed the channel (England/France/England/France) in 34 hours 40 mins.
  • The woman with the most crossings, holding the undisputed title of "Queen of the Channel", is Alison Streeter MBE with 43 crossings, including one 3-way and three 2-way swims.
  • The "King of the Channel" title has been awarded to Kevin Murphy (34 crossings, including three doubles)
  • Des Renford swam the Channel 19 times, more than any other Australian. He was born on 25 August 1927, the 52nd anniversary of Matthew Webb's inaugural swim.
  • Other swimming crossings include: Vicki Keith (first butterfly swim crossing); Florence Chadwick (first woman to swim the Channel in both directions); Montserrat Tresserras (first woman to swim the Channel in both directions, as verified by the Channel Swimming Association); Marilyn Bell (youngest person up to 1955); Amelia Gade Corson (first mother and second woman); Mercedes Gleitze (first Englishwoman, 7 October 1927); Brojen Das, the first Asian (23 August 1958); Abhijit Rao, the youngest Asian (6 August 1988); Comedians who have swum the channel Doon Mackichan, and David Walliams.

The team with the most number of Channel swims to its credit is the International Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team with 35 crossings by 25 members (by 2005).

By the end of 2005, 811 individuals had completed 1,185 verified crossings under the rules of the CSA, the CSA (Ltd), the CSPF and Butlins.

The total number of swims conducted under and ratified by the Channel Swimming Association to 2005: 982 successful crossings by 665 people. This includes twenty-four 2-way crossings and three 3-way crossings.

Total number of ratified swims to 2004: 948 successful crossings by 675 people (456 by men & 214 by women). There have been sixteen 2-way crossings (9 by men and 7 by women). There have been three 3-way crossings (2 by men and 1 by a woman). (It is unclear whether this last set of data is comprehensive or CSA-only.)

By car

In 2007 the presenters of the BBC programme Top Gear; Jeremy Clarkson; Richard Hammond and James May drove across the Channel from England to France. They did it by designing 'Amphibious Cars' that could be driven on land and also operate in water.After four attempts - twice failing to leave Dover harbour - the three presenters successfully reached the coast of France in a Nissan D21 pickup, dubbed as the Nissank with an outboard motor and oil drums attached to the back to aid stability in the open water. The other two vehicles that attempted the crossing (a Triumph Herald with a sail and a Volkswagon with a propeller) both sank.

Clarkson believed it might be possible to break the world record for crossing the channel in this manner, but the team were unsuccessful.

The BBC received criticism from the coastguard who claimed that they had not been told that the stunt was going to take place and branded it "completely irresponsible".

See also


  1. "English Channel". The Columbia Encyclopedia, 2004.
  2. "English Channel." Encyclopædia Britannica 2007.
  3. "English Channel." The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia including Atlas. 2005.
  4. :Image:Allied Invasion Force.jpg + French map of Channel
  5. Jonathan Potter: Map : The British Channel
  6. A chart of the British Channel, Jefferys, Thomas, 1787
  7. " Map Of Great Britain, Ca. 1450", Collect Britain
  8. Room A. Placenames of the world: origins and meanings, p. 6.
  9. cf. "Kernow", the Cornish for Cornwall.
  10. History Compass
  11. quoting Fisher, Naval Necessities I, p. 219
  12. Verifiable in Hovercraft Club of Great Britain Records and Archives.
  14. [1] The History of the Channel Ferry
  15. [2] Channel ferries & ferry ports
  16. Bose, Anjali, Samsad Bangali Chariutabhidhan, Vol II, p. 268, Sishu Sahitya Samsad Pvt. Ltd., ISBN 81-86806-99-7
  18. BBC Top Gear Series 10 Episode 2
  20. GPG Physics Today, Sonar mapping suggests that the English Channel was created by two megafloods, (extract of Gupta Potter), Freely downloadabe PDF


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