Gulf of Bothnia

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Map of the Baltic Sea, showing the Gulf of Bothnia in the upper half Baltic Sea map.png
Map of the Baltic Sea, showing the Gulf of Bothnia in the upper half
Satellite image of Fennoscandia in winter. The northern part of the Gulf of Bothnia, the Bothnian Bay, is covered with sea ice. Scandinavia M2002074 lrg.jpg
Satellite image of Fennoscandia in winter. The northern part of the Gulf of Bothnia, the Bothnian Bay, is covered with sea ice.

The Gulf of Bothnia ( /ˈbɒθniə/ ; Finnish : Pohjanlahti; Swedish : Bottniska viken, also divided as Bottenviken + Bottenhavet ) is the northernmost arm of the Baltic Sea. It is situated between Finland's west coast and Sweden's east coast. In the south of the gulf lie the Åland Islands, between the Sea of Åland and the Archipelago Sea.

Finnish language language arising and mostly spoken in Finland

Finnish is a Uralic language of the Finnic branch spoken by the majority of the population in Finland and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. Finnish, along with Swedish, is an official language of Finland; Finnish is also an official minority language in Sweden. In Sweden, both Standard Finnish and Meänkieli, its own language or a dialect of Finnish, are spoken. The Kven language, a dialect of Finnish or even a distinct language, is spoken in Northern Norway by a minority group of Finnish descent. The status of kven and meänkieli are debated.

Swedish language North Germanic language spoken in Sweden

Swedish is a North Germanic language spoken natively by 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden, and in parts of Finland, where it has equal legal standing with Finnish. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and to some extent with Danish, although the degree of mutual intelligibility is largely dependent on the dialect and accent of the speaker. Written Norwegian and Danish are usually more easily understood by Swedish speakers than the spoken languages, due to the differences in tone, accent and intonation. Swedish is a descendant of Old Norse, the common language of the Germanic peoples living in Scandinavia during the Viking Era. It has the most speakers of the North Germanic languages. While being strongly related to its southern neighbour language German in vocabulary, the word order, grammatic system and pronunciation are vastly different.

Bothnian Bay northernmost part of the Gulf of Bothnia

The Bothnian Bay or Bay of Bothnia is the northernmost part of the Gulf of Bothnia, which is in turn the northern part of the Baltic Sea. The land holding the bay is still rising after the weight of ice-age glaciers has been removed, and within 2,000 years the bay will be a large freshwater lake. The bay today is fed by several large rivers, and is relatively unaffected by tides, so has low salinity. It freezes each year for up to six months. Compared to other parts of the Baltic it has little plant or animal life.



Bothnia is a latinization. The Swedish name Bottenviken was originally just Botn(en), with botn being Old Norse for "gulf" or "bay", [1] which is also the meaning of the second element vik.

Old Norse North Germanic language

Old Norse was a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and their overseas settlements from about the 9th to the 13th centuries.

The name botn was applied to the Gulf of Bothnia as Helsingjabotn in Old Norse, after Hälsingland, which at the time referred to the coastland west of the gulf. Later, botten was applied to the regions Västerbotten on the western side and Österbotten the eastern side ("East Bottom" and "West Bottom"). The Finnish name of Österbotten, Pohjanmaa (maa = "land"), gives a hint as to the meaning in both languages: the meaning of pohja includes both "bottom" and "north". Pohja is the base word for north, pohjoinen, with an adjectival suffix added. [2]

Hälsingland Place in Norrland, Sweden

Hälsingland, sometimes referred to as Helsingia in English, is a historical province or landskap in central Sweden. It borders Gästrikland, Dalarna, Härjedalen, Medelpad and the Gulf of Bothnia. It is part of the land of Norrland.

Västerbotten Place in Norrland, Sweden

Västerbotten, known in English as West Bothnia or Westrobothnia, is a province (landskap) in the north of Sweden, bordering Ångermanland, Lapland, North Bothnia, and the Gulf of Bothnia. It is known for the cheese named after the province.

Ostrobothnia (region) Region in Ostrobothnia, Finland

Ostrobothnia is a region of Finland. It is located in Western Finland. It borders the regions of Central Ostrobothnia, South Ostrobothnia, and Satakunta and is one of the four modern regions making up the historical province of Ostrobothnia.

Botn/botten is cognate with the English word bottom, and it might be part of a general north European distinction of lowlands, as opposed to highlands, such as the Netherlandic region, Samogitia (Lithuanian), and Sambia (Russia).[ clarification needed ][ citation needed ]

Cognate word that has a common etymological origin

In linguistics, cognates are words that have a common etymological origin. Cognates are often inherited from a shared parent language, but they may also involve borrowings from some other language. For example, the English words dish and desk and the German word Tisch ("table") are cognates because they all come from Latin discus, which relates to their flat surfaces. Cognates may have evolved similar, different or even opposite meanings, but in most cases there are some similar sounds or letters in the words, in some cases appearing to be dissimilar. Some words sound similar, but do not come from the same root; these are called false cognates, while some are truly cognate but differ in meaning; these are called false friends.

English language West Germanic language

English is a West Germanic language that was first spoken in early medieval England and eventually became a global lingua franca. It is named after the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes that migrated to the area of Great Britain that later took their name, as England. Both names derive from Anglia, a peninsula in the Baltic Sea. The language is closely related to Frisian and Low Saxon, and its vocabulary has been significantly influenced by other Germanic languages, particularly Norse, and to a greater extent by Latin and French.

Netherlands Constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Europe

The Netherlands, sometimes informally called Holland, is a country located in Northwestern Europe with some overseas territories in the Caribbean. In Europe, it consists of 12 provinces that border Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, with maritime borders in the North Sea with those countries and the United Kingdom. Together with three island territories in the Caribbean Sea—Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba—it forms a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The official language is Dutch, but a secondary official language in the province of Friesland is West Frisian. In the northern parts of the country, Low German is also spoken.

A second possibility is that botten follows an alternative Scandinavian connotation of 'furthermost'. Thus, the Gulf of Bothnia would be the farthest extent of the Ocean.[ citation needed ]

Julius Pokorny gives the extended Proto-Indo-European root as *bhudh-m(e)n with a *bhudh-no- variant, from which the Latin fundus, as in fundament, is derived. The original meaning of English north, from Proto-Indo-European *ner- "under", indicates an original sense of "lowlands" for "bottomlands". On the other hand, by "north" the classical authors usually meant "outermost", as the northern lands were outermost to them.[ citation needed ]

Julius Pokorny was an Austrian-Czech linguist and scholar of the Celtic languages, particularly Irish, and a supporter of Irish nationalism. He held academic posts in Austrian and German universities.

The origin of the word is indeed very ancient, belonging to a period before the world discoveries by the Portuguese. Until then, north was not seen as the magnetic top of the world, East being the normal orientation of a map.[ citation needed ]

Also, in Saami, the cardinal directions were named according to the different parts of the typical tent used by this nomadic people. The door of the tent was traditionally pointed South, in the most sunny direction, and the bottom of the tent would be aligned with the North. Thus the origin of the word pohja in its use as "north". Deriving as well from this logic is the affinity in the Finnish language of the words eteinen, meaning "entrance room/hall" and etelä, "south".[ citation needed ] According to Lönnrot, north was viewed as the bottom direction because the lowest point of the sun's path is there.


The International Hydrographic Organization defines the southern limit of the Gulf of Bothnia as follows: [3]

From Simpnäsklubb (59°54'N) in Sweden, to Flötjan, Lagskær [sic], Fæstörne [sic], Kökarsörn, and Vænö-Kalkskær [sic] to the SW point of Hangöudde (Hangö Head, 59°49'N) in Finland, thus including the Aland islands and adjacent shoals and channels in the Gulf of Bothnia.

June 2006 view of the Gulf of Bothnia in Finland. Solis Occasus in Sino Bothnico.jpg
June 2006 view of the Gulf of Bothnia in Finland.

The gulf is 725 km (450 mi) long, 80–240 km (50-150 mi) wide and has an average depth of 60 m (200 ft, 33 fathoms). The maximum depth is 295 m (965 ft, 161 fathoms). The surface area is 117,000 km² (45,200 sq mi). The northernmost point is situated in Töre in the Bothnian Bay. its coordinates are 65° 54'07" N 22° 39'00 E. [4]

The depth and surface area of the Gulf of Bothnia are constantly decreasing, as the land is rising after it had been pressed down by about 2,600 to 3,300 feet (800 to 1,000 meters) [5] by the continental ice during last ice age. The rise is 80 cm every hundred years. [6] It is estimated that the land has a further 300 to 400 feet (100 to 125 meters) to rise before equilibrium is reached. This recovery rate will progressively slow as isostatic equilibrium is approached. [7]

Into the gulf flow a number of rivers from both sides; consequently, a salinity gradient exists from north to south. In the south the water is the normal brackish water of the Baltic Sea, but in the north, in the Bothnian Bay, the salinity is so low, [8] from 0.4% near Kvarken to 0.2% in the northernmost part [9] , that many freshwater fish such as the pike, whitefish and perch thrive in it. [6]

Being nearly fresh, the gulf is frozen over five months every year. The icing of the Baltic Sea begins and ends in the northern Gulf of Bothnia. Traffic restrictions for icebreaker assistance are typically in force for all the gulf from late January to late April and for the northernmost ports from the middle of December to the middle of May. [10]


Geologically the Gulf of Bothnia is an ancient depression of tectonic origin. The depression in partly filled with sedimentary rock deposited in the Precambrian and Paleozoic. Nearby plains adjoining the gulf are part of the Sub-Cambrian peneplain. While being repeatedly covered by glaciers during the last 2.5 million years glacial erosion has had a limited effect in changing the topography. [11]

Ongoing post-glacial rebound is thought to result in splitting of the Gulf of Bothnia into a southern gulf and northern lake across the Norra Kvarken area in about 2,000 years. [12]


Some historians[ who? ] suggest that the adventurer Ottar was referring to the Gulf of Bothnia when he spoke of the Kven Sea in the 9th century. It is also possible that Claudius Clavus's usage of the term Mare Gotticus in the 15th century refers to the Gulf of Bothnia[ citation needed ].


The land surrounding the Gulf of Bothnia is heavily forested. Trees are logged, then transported to the coast for milling. The gulf is also important for oil transport to the coastal cities and ore transport to steel mills, for instance in Raahe.

In terms of tonnage in international traffic, the largest ports on the Finnish side are Rauma, Kokkola and Tornio. [13] The main ports of the Swedish side are in Luleå, Skellefteå, Umeå, Sundsvall, Gävle and Hargshamn. In Luleå, iron ore pellets are exported and coal is imported. Gävle is Sweden's third-largest container port. It also ships forest products and oil. [14] In the Gulf of Bothnia, icebreakers assist the ports needed in average half a year, when the Gulf of Finland, the season is only three months. [15]

There is some fishery, mainly Baltic herring, for domestic needs. A persistent problem has been pollution, because the sea is enclosed by a large drainage basin and is poorly connected to fresher waters from the Atlantic. Mercury and PCB levels have been relatively high, although the Finnish Food Safety Authority considers the herring edible. Although the levels exceed the limits, the fatty acids have health benefits that offset this risk.



Related Research Articles

Baltic Sea A sea in Northern Europe bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands

The Baltic Sea is a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean, enclosed by Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden, northeast Germany, Poland, Russia and the North and Central European Plain.

Norrbotten County County (län) of Sweden

Norrbotten County is the northernmost county or län of Sweden. It borders Västerbotten County to the southwest, the Gulf of Bothnia to the southeast. It also borders the counties of Nordland and Troms in Norway to the northwest, and Lapland Province in Finland to the northeast.

Haparanda Municipality Municipality in Norrbotten County, Sweden

Haparanda Municipality, is a municipality in Norrbotten County in northern Sweden. Its seat is located in Haparanda.

Ostrobothnia (historical province) historical province of Finland

Ostrobothnia, Swedish: Österbotten, Finnish: Pohjanmaa is a historical province comprising a large western and northern part of modern Finland. It is bounded by Karelia, Savonia, Tavastia and Satakunda in the south, the Bothnian Sea, Bothnian Bay and Swedish Västerbotten in the west, Laponia in the north and Russia in the east.

Norrbotten Place in Norrland, Sweden

Norrbotten, known in English as North Bothnia, is a Swedish province (landskap) in northernmost Sweden. It borders south to Västerbotten, west to Swedish Lapland, and east to Finland.

North Ostrobothnia Region in Ostrobothnia, Finland

North Ostrobothnia is a region of Finland. It borders the Finnish regions of Lapland, Kainuu, North Savo, Central Finland and Central Ostrobothnia, as well as the Russian Republic of Karelia.

Kvarken marine region in the Gulf of Bothnia between Sweden and Finland

Kvarken is the narrow region in the Gulf of Bothnia separating the Bothnian Bay from the Bothnian Sea. The distance from Swedish mainland to Finnish mainland is around 80 km (50 mi) while the distance between the outmost islands is only 25 km (16 mi). The water depth in the Kvarken region is only around 25 metres (82 ft). The region also has an unusual rate of land rising at about 10 mm a year.

Bothnian Sea Southern part of the Gulf of Bothnia

The Bothnian Sea links the Bothnian Bay with the Baltic proper. Kvarken is situated between the two. Together, the Bothnian Sea and Bay make up a larger geographical entity, the Gulf of Bothnia, where the Bothnian Sea is the southern part. The whole Gulf of Bothnia is situated between Sweden, to the West, Finland, to the East, and the Sea of Åland and Archipelago Sea to the South. The surface area of Bothnian Sea is approximately 79,000 km². The largest coastal towns, from south to north, are Rauma and Pori in Finland, and Gävle and Sundsvall in Sweden. Umeå (Sweden) and Vaasa (Finland) lie in the extreme north, near Bothnian Bay.

Sea of Åland The sea between the Finnish Åland islands and the Swedish mainland, part of the Baltic Sea

The Sea of Åland is a waterway in the southern Gulf of Bothnia, between the Åland islands and Sweden. It connects the Bothnian Sea with the Baltic Sea proper. The seas are often choppy here. The narrowest part is named South Kvarken. The trench running on the bottom of the Sea of Åland contains the second-deepest spot of the Baltic Sea, at a depth of 301 meters, which is second only to Landsort Deep.

Bothnia or Bothnian may refer to:

Finland–Sweden border international border between Finland and Sweden

The Finnish-Swedish border is the border between the countries of Finland and Sweden. Almost the entire border runs through water: along the Tornio River and its tributaries, and in the Gulf of Bothnia. Only a few kilometres of the border are on dry land. Because of the Schengen treaty and the Nordic Passport Union, the border can be crossed mostly freely.

Norrbotten archipelago

The Norrbotten archipelago is a group of Swedish islands in the north part of the Bay of Bothnia. A few of the islands have small permanent populations, but most are used only for recreation in the summer months. They are icebound during the winter.

Kalix archipelago

The Kalix archipelago is a group of 792 Swedish islands in the north part of the Bay of Bothnia. The largest island in the Kalix archipelago is Rånön. A few of the islands have small permanent populations, but most are used only for recreation in the summer months. They are icebound during the winter.

Haparanda archipelago archipelago of Sweden

The Haparanda archipelago is a group of 792 Swedish islands in the north part of the Bay of Bothnia. The islands are used for recreation in the summer months. They are icebound during the winter.


Getskär and Renskär are two islands in the north of the Swedish sector of the Bay of Bothnia, in the Kalix archipelago, that have become joined through uplift of the land due to post-glacial rebound and are now one.

In north European geology, Jotnian sediments are a group of Precambrian rocks more specifically assigned to the Mesoproterozoic Era (Riphean), albeit some might be younger. Jotnian sediments include the oldest known sediments in the Baltic area that have not been subject to metamorphism. Stratigraphically, Jotnian sediments overlie the rapakivi granites and other igneous and metamorphic rocks and are often intruded by younger diabases.


  1. Svensk etymologisk ordbok / (in Swedish)
  2. "suomen kielisten ilmansuuntien etymologia". 26 July 2006. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  3. "Limits of Oceans and Seas, 3rd edition" (PDF). International Hydrographic Organization. 1953. Retrieved 6 February 2010.
  4. "Töre båthamn". hamnar i Kalix (in Swedish). Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  5. Template:Geologica: Earth’s Dynamic Forces by Dr Robert R. Coenraads and John I. Koivula
  6. 1 2 "About the Bay of Bothnia". Bottenvikens Skargård. Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  7. Template:Geologica: Earth’s Dynamic Forces by Dr Robert R. Coenraads and John I. Koivula
  8. "Gulf of Bothnia". Archived at the Wayback Machine. Archived from the original on 10 March 2007.CS1 maint: others (link)
  9. "Perämeren erityispiirteet". Archived from the original on 21 January 2012.
  10. Typical restrictions to navigation 1994/95-2003/04 (pdf) Archived 1 December 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  11. Lidmar-Bergström, Karna (1997). "A long-term perspective on glacial erosion". Earth Surface Processes and Landforms . 22: 297–306.
  12. Tikkanen, Matti; Oksanen, Juha (2002). "Late Weichselian and Holocene shore displacement history of the Baltic Sea in Finland". Fennia . 180 (1–2). Retrieved 22 December 2017.
  13. "Table 4. Statistics on international shipping 2014" (PDF). Statistics from the Finnish Transport Agency. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  14. Havsplanering p. 92 (in Swedish)
  15. "Climate change creates new prerequisites for shipping". Climate Guide. SYKE, Aalto University, YTK & Finnish Met. Institute. Retrieved 1 December 2015.

Coordinates: 63°N20°E / 63°N 20°E / 63; 20