Bay of Biscay

Bay of Biscay

:"Cantabrian Sea redirects here. Not to be confused with Biscay Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador or Biscayne Bay."The Bay of Biscay (Spanish: "Golfo de Vizcaya" and "Mar Cantábrico"; French: "Golfe de Gascogne"; Basque: "Bizkaiko Golkoa"; Occitan: "Golf de Gasconha") is a gulf of the North Atlantic Ocean. It lies along the western coast of France from Brest south to the Spanish border, and the northern coast of Spain west to Punta de Estaca de Bares, and is named for the Spanish province of Biscay. Biscay is also an area of the British Shipping Forecast, familiar to BBC Radio 4 listeners.


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 Ocean'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:
* France: Loire, Charente, Garonne, Dordogne, Adour.
* Spain: named westward : Bidasoa, Urola , Nervión, Asón, Pas, Deva, Nalón, Navia, Eo, Sor.

Main cities

The main cities on the shores of the Bay of Biscay are:
* France: Brest, Nantes, La Rochelle, Bordeaux, Bayonne.
* Spain: San Sebastian, Bilbao, Santander, Gijon.


The southern end of the gulf is also called in Spanish "Mar Cantábrico" (Cantabrian Sea)", for the region of Cantabria, 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 industry, the Basque and Cantabrian shipbuilders and fishermen.

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


The car ferries from Portsmouth to Bilbao and from Plymouth, Portsmouth and Poole to Santander 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.

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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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Bay of Biscay — Bay of Bis|cay the Bay of Biscay a large area of sea between the west coast of France and the north coast of Spain …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Bay of Biscay — /ˈbɪskeɪ/ (say biskay) noun 1. a large bay of the Atlantic between western France and northern Spain; notorious for its rough seas. 223 000 km2. –adjective 2. of or relating to rough country, variously of gullies and hills or of holes and mounds …   Australian English dictionary

  • Bay of Biscay — noun a gulf of the North Atlantic Ocean along the western coast of France from Brest south to the Spanish border, and the northern coast of Spain, named for the Spanish province of Biscay …   Wiktionary

  • Bay of Biscay — n. bay in the Atlantic ocean between Northern Spain and Western France …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Bay of Biscay — noun an arm of the Atlantic Ocean in western Europe; bordered by the west coast of France and the north coast of Spain • Instance Hypernyms: ↑bay, ↑embayment • Part Holonyms: ↑Atlantic, ↑Atlantic Ocean …   Useful english dictionary

  • Biscay — ( eu. Bizkaia, es. Vizcaya) is a province of the Basque Country in Spain. It is generally accepted that Bizkaia , the original Basque term, means something like mountain or cliff . It is a correlate of bizkar , meaning: 1. back, shoulders, 2.… …   Wikipedia

  • Biscay (disambiguation) — Biscay may refer to: * Biscay a Basque province of Spain * Bay of Biscay on the Atlantic coast of France and Spain * A Shipping Forecast sea area corresponding to the bay * Lord of Biscay mediaeval ruler of Biscay * Biscay, Minnesota city *… …   Wikipedia

  • Biscay — Biscay, Bay of →↑Bay of Biscay …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Bay — Bay, n. [F. baie, fr. LL. baia. Of uncertain origin: cf. Ir. & Gael. badh or bagh bay, harbor, creek; Bisc. baia, baiya, harbor, and F. bayer to gape, open the mouth.] 1. (Geog.) An inlet of the sea, usually smaller than a gulf, but of the same… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Biscay, Bay of — or Gulf of Gascony French Golfe de Gascogne Spanish Golfo de Vizcaya Inlet of the Atlantic Ocean, bounded by southwestern France and northwestern Spain. It has an area of about 86,000 sq mi (223,000 sq km) and a maximum depth of 15,525 ft (4,735… …   Universalium

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