Strait of Belle Isle

The Strait of Belle Isle (/ˌbɛl ˈl/; French: Détroit de Belle Isle [bɛl il]) is a waterway in eastern Canada that separates the Labrador Peninsula from the island of Newfoundland, in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.


The strait is the northern outlet for the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the other two being the Cabot Strait and Strait of Canso. As such, it is also considered part of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system. The strait is approximately 125 kilometres (80 miles) long and ranges from a maximum width of 60 km (37 mi) to just 15 km (9 mi) at its narrowest, the average width being 18 km (11 mi).

Origins of name

The name is derived from Belle Isle (Beautiful Island), located at the extreme eastern end of the strait and roughly equidistant between Table Head, Labrador, and Cape Bauld, Newfoundland.

Navigation in the strait can be extremely hazardous with strong tidal currents interacting with the Labrador Current, depths reaching several hundred metres in places, sea ice for 8 to 10 months of the year, and variable weather conditions including gales and fog. While sea ice prevents year-round shipping, the Canadian Coast Guard maintains a vessel traffic service (VTS) to ensure collisions do not occur. The VTS is voluntary currently.

A ferry service operates at the western part of strait between St. Barbe, Newfoundland, and Blanc Sablon, Quebec.[1] New road construction for the Trans-Labrador Highway resulted in the removal of ferry services to outports in the northeastern part of the strait in 2002.

The idea of building a fixed link across the strait between Labrador and Newfoundland, known as the Newfoundland-Labrador fixed link, has been raised numerous times in recent decades following an unsuccessful attempt to build a tunnel carrying electrical wires in the mid-1970s. If such a link were built, it would likely be a 17-kilometre-long (11 mi) submerged rail tunnel.[2] The proposal is meant to reduce the province's reliance upon the Marine Atlantic ferry service to Nova Scotia, but the project's high costs and lack of suitable road network between Labrador and Quebec have been cited as major obstacles. The October 2003 provincial election resulted in the newly elected Progressive Conservative government announcing joint federal-provincial funding for a study of the concept.[2] A 35 km (22 mi) submarine cable across the strait is under construction as part of the Lower Churchill Project.[3]


Further reading

  • Auger, Réginald. Labrador Inuit and Europeans in the Strait of Belle Isle From the Written Sources to the Archæological Evidence. Collection Nordicana, no 55. Québec, Canada: Centre d'études nordiques, Université Laval, 1991.
  • Bailey, W. B., and H. B. Hachey. Hydrographic Features of the Strait of Belle Isle. St. Andrews, N.B.: Atlantic Oceanographic Group, 1951.
  • Bock, Allan. Out of Necessity The Story of Sealskin Boots in the Strait of Belle Isle. Shoal Cove East, Nfld: GNP Craft Producers, 1991.
  • Bostock, H. H., L. M. Cumming, and Harold Williams. Geology of the Strait of Belle Isle Area, Northwestern Insular Newfoundland, Southern Labrador, and Adjacent Quebec. Ottawa, Canada: Geological Survey of Canada, 1983. ISBN 0-660-10608-6
  • Dawson, W. Bell. The Currents in Belle Isle Strait, the Northern Entrance to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Bulletin of the Geographical Society of Philadelphia, No. 1-2, January–April, 1920. Philadelphia: The Society, 1920.
  • Jeffers, George W. Observations on the Cod-Fishery in the Strait of Belle Isle. Toronto: Biological Board of Canada, 1931.
  • LeGrow, Keith Herbert. Distribution of Marine Birds in Relation to Water Masses and Fronts in the Strait of Belle Isle, Northwestern Atlantic Ocean. Ottawa: National Library of Canada = Bibliothèque nationale du Canada, 2001. ISBN 0-612-54902-X
  • May, A. W. Biological Data on Cod from the Summer Fishery on the North Shore Strait of Belle Isle. [Ottawa]: Fisheries Research Board of Canada, 1968.
  • McGhee, Robert, and James A. Tuck. An Archaic Sequence from the Strait of Belle Isle, Labrador. Mercury series. Ottawa: National Museums of Canada, 1975.
  • Murphy, Joe. The Strait of Belle Isle Fixed Link. 2004.
  • Ney, C. H. Triangulation in Newfoundland, West Coast and Strait of Belle Isle. Ottawa: Edmond Cloutier, 1948.
  • Sobieniak, J. W. A Study of Air Services Across the Strait of Belle Isle. Ottawa: Canadian Transport Commission, Systems Analysis Branch, 1972.
  • Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Belle Isle, Strait of" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

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