English Channel: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about the English Channel.

  • The English Channel is the body of water that separates the south coast of England from the north coast of France.
  • It is one of the busiest shipping areas in the world.

  • It covers about 75,000 square km and stretches for about 560 km. At its narrowest point, the Straits of Dover, a distance of only 33 km separates England and France.
  • The Channel Islands belong to the UK, although are less than 50 km from the French coast. The islands were occupied by the Germans during World War II.
  • The deepest point in the English Channel is north of Guernsey, at about 180 metres. Many weapons from the two world wars have been dumped there, including poison gas shells.
  • The first passenger ferry crossed the English Channel in 1821.
  • In 1995, a hovercraft carrying cars crossed the channel in just over 22 minutes, the fastest ever hovercraft crossing.
  • Captain Matthew Webb made the first solo swim across the English Channel in 1875, taking 21 hours, 45 minutes. He battled strong currents and was stung by jellyfish.
  • In 1988 an 11 year old boy swam the Channel in just under 12 hours. A 70 year old Australian swam across the Channel in 2014, taking just under 13 hours.
  • A French aviator, Louis Bleriot was the first person to fly across the English Channel in 1909. Bleriot did it in 37 minutes and won 1,000 pounds for his achievement.
  • The Channel Tunnel was opened in 1994 and has the longest portion under the sea of any tunnel. Plans for a tunnel under the channel were announced as far back as 1802.
  • The so-called Miracle of Dunkirk took place off the French coast in summer, 1940. Hundreds of battleships, tugs and fishing boats rescued over 338,000 Allied troops from the French beaches.