Gulf of Saint Lawrence

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Coordinates: 48°36′N61°24′W / 48.600°N 61.400°W / 48.600; -61.400

Geographic coordinate system Coordinate system

A geographic coordinate system is a coordinate system that enables every location on Earth to be specified by a set of numbers, letters or symbols. The coordinates are often chosen such that one of the numbers represents a vertical position and two or three of the numbers represent a horizontal position; alternatively, a geographic position may be expressed in a combined three-dimensional Cartesian vector. A common choice of coordinates is latitude, longitude and elevation. To specify a location on a plane requires a map projection.


The Gulf of Saint Lawrence on a Canada map. Golfe Saint-Laurent en.png
The Gulf of Saint Lawrence on a Canada map.

The Gulf of Saint Lawrence (French: Golfe du Saint-Laurent) is the outlet of the North American Great Lakes via the Saint Lawrence River into the Atlantic Ocean. The gulf is a semi-enclosed sea, covering an area of about 226,000 square kilometres (87,000 sq mi) and containing about 34,500 cubic kilometres (8,300 cu mi) of water, which results in an average depth of 152 metres (499 ft). [1]

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

Saint Lawrence River Large river in eastern Canada and the United States, flowing into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence

The Saint Lawrence River is a large river in the middle latitudes of North America. The Saint Lawrence River flows in a roughly north-easterly direction, connecting the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean and forming the primary drainage outflow of the Great Lakes Basin. It traverses the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario, and is part of the international boundary between Ontario, Canada, and the U.S. state of New York. This river provides the basis for the commercial Saint Lawrence Seaway.

Atlantic Ocean Ocean between Europe, Africa and the Americas

The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest of the world's oceans, with an area of about 106,460,000 square kilometers. It covers approximately 20 percent of the Earth's surface and about 29 percent of its water surface area. It separates the "Old World" from the "New World".


Gulf shore at Pleasant Bay, NS Pleasant bay shoreline.jpg
Gulf shore at Pleasant Bay, NS

The Gulf of Saint Lawrence is bounded on the north by the Labrador Peninsula and Quebec, to the east by Saint-Pierre and Newfoundland, to the south by the Nova Scotia peninsula and Cape Breton Island, and to the west by the Gaspe Peninsula, New Brunswick, and Quebec. As for significant islands the Gulf of Saint Lawrence contains Anticosti Island, PEI, Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Cape Breton Island, Saint Pierre Island, and Miquelon-Langlade.

Labrador Peninsula peninsula

The Labrador Peninsula is a large peninsula in eastern Canada. It is bounded by the Hudson Bay to the west, the Hudson Strait to the north, the Labrador Sea to the east, and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence to the southeast. The peninsula includes the region of Labrador, which is part of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the regions of Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, Côte-Nord, and Nord-du-Québec, which are in the province of Quebec. It has an area of 1,400,000 km2 (541,000 sq mi).

Quebec Province of Canada

Quebec is one of the thirteen provinces and territories of Canada. It is bordered to the west by the province of Ontario and the bodies of water James Bay and Hudson Bay; to the north by Hudson Strait and Ungava Bay; to the east by the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador; and to the south by the province of New Brunswick and the U.S. states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. It also shares maritime borders with Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia. Quebec is Canada's largest province by area and its second-largest administrative division; only the territory of Nunavut is larger. It is historically and politically considered to be part of Central Canada.

Saint-Pierre, Saint Pierre and Miquelon Commune in Saint Pierre and Miquelon, France

Saint-Pierre is the capital of the French overseas collectivity of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, off the coast of Newfoundland in Canada. Saint-Pierre is the more populated of the two communes (municipalities) making up Saint Pierre and Miquelon.

Half of the ten provinces of Canada adjoin the Gulf: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Quebec.

Nova Scotia Province of Canada

Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime Provinces, and one of the four provinces that form Atlantic Canada. Its provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the second-smallest of Canada's ten provinces, with an area of 55,284 square kilometres (21,300 sq mi), including Cape Breton and another 3,800 coastal islands. As of 2016, the population was 923,598. Nova Scotia is Canada's second-most-densely populated province, after Prince Edward Island, with 17.4 inhabitants per square kilometre (45/sq mi).

Prince Edward Island Province of Canada

Prince Edward Island is a province of Canada consisting of the Atlantic island of the same name along with several much smaller islands nearby. PEI is one of the three Maritime Provinces. It is the smallest province of Canada in both land area and population, but it is the most densely populated. Part of the traditional lands of the Mi'kmaq, it became a British colony in the 1700s and was federated into Canada as a province in 1873. Its capital is Charlottetown. According to the 2016 census, the province of PEI has 142,907 residents.

Newfoundland and Labrador Province of Canada

Newfoundland and Labrador is the most easterly province of Canada. Situated in the country's Atlantic region, it comprises the island of Newfoundland and mainland Labrador to the northwest, with a combined area of 405,212 square kilometres (156,500 sq mi). In 2018, the province's population was estimated at 525,073. About 92% of the province's population lives on the island of Newfoundland, of whom more than half live on the Avalon Peninsula.

Besides the Saint Lawrence River itself, significant streams emptying into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence include the Miramichi River, Natashquan River, Romaine River, Restigouche River, Margaree River, and Humber River.

Miramichi River river in Canada

The Miramichi River is a river located in the east-central part of New Brunswick, Canada. The river drains into Miramichi Bay in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The name may have been derived from the Montagnais words "Maissimeu Assi", and it is today the namesake of the Miramichi Herald at the Canadian Heraldic Authority.

Natashquan River river in Canada

The Natashquan is a river in the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Romaine River river in Canada

The Romaine River is a river in the Côte-Nord region of the Canadian province of Quebec. It is 496 kilometres (308 mi) long. It is not to be confused with the Olomane River that is 220 kilometres (140 mi) to the east and had the same name for a long time.

Branches of the Gulf include the Chaleur Bay, Fortune Bay, Miramichi Bay, St. George's Bay, Bay St. George, Bay of Islands, and Northumberland Strait.

Chaleur Bay arm of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence located between Quebec and New Brunswick, Canada

Chaleur Bay - also known informally in English as Bay of Chaleur due to the influence of its French translation - is an arm of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence located between Quebec and New Brunswick, Canada.

Fortune Bay Newfoundland, Canada

Fortune Bay is a fairly large natural bay located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the south coast of Newfoundland, Canada. The Bay is bounded by Point Crewe on the Burin Peninsula and Pass Island at the entrance to Hermitage Bay to the northwest for a distance of 56 kilometers. The bay extends in a northeast direction for 105 kilometers ending at Terrenceville.

Miramichi Bay

Miramichi Bay is an estuary located on the west coast of the Gulf of St. Lawrence in New Brunswick, at the mouth of the Miramichi River. Miramichi Bay is separated into the "inner bay" and the "outer bay", with the division being a line of uninhabited barrier islands which are continually reshaped by ocean storms. The largest of these islands is the uninhabited Portage Island, which was broken in two during a violent storm in the 1950s. The islands provide some protection to the inner bay from ocean storms in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.


The gulf flows into the Atlantic Ocean through the following outlets:


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The limits of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence vary between sources.

The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence as follows: [2]

On the Northeast.
A line running from Cape Bauld (North point of Kirpon Island, 51°40′N55°25′W / 51.667°N 55.417°W / 51.667; -55.417 ) to the East extreme of Belle Isle and on to the Northeast Ledge ( 52°02′N55°15′W / 52.033°N 55.250°W / 52.033; -55.250 ). Thence a line joining this ledge with the East extreme of Cape St. Charles (52°13'N) in Labrador.

On the Southeast.
A line from Cape Canso ( 45°20′N61°0′W / 45.333°N 61.000°W / 45.333; -61.000 ) to Red Point ( 45°35′N60°45′W / 45.583°N 60.750°W / 45.583; -60.750 ) in Cape Breton Island, through this Island to Cape Breton [ 45°57′N59°47′W / 45.950°N 59.783°W / 45.950; -59.783 ] and on to Pointe Blanche ( 46°45′N56°11′W / 46.750°N 56.183°W / 46.750; -56.183 ) in the Island of St. Pierre, and thence to the Southwest point of Morgan Island ( 46°51′N55°49′W / 46.850°N 55.817°W / 46.850; -55.817 ).

On the West.
The meridian of 64°30'W, but the whole of Anticosti Island is included in the Gulf.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada places the western limit at Pointe-des-Monts. [3]

Protected areas

Bathymetry of the gulf, with the Laurentian Channel visible StLawrence Gulf bathymetry.jpg
Bathymetry of the gulf, with the Laurentian Channel visible
Basque settlements and sites dating from the 16th and 17th centuries Basques Newfoundland.gif
Basque settlements and sites dating from the 16th and 17th centuries

St. Paul Island, Nova Scotia, off the northeastern tip of Cape Breton Island, is referred[ by whom? ] to as the "Graveyard of the Gulf" because of its many shipwrecks[ citation needed ]. Access to this island is controlled by the Canadian Coast Guard.

Bonaventure Island on the eastern tip of the Gaspe Peninsula, Île Brion and Rochers-aux-Oiseaux (Bird Rock) northeast of the Magdalen Islands [4] are important migratory bird sanctuaries administered by the Canadian Wildlife Service.

The Federal Government of Canada has national parks along the Gulf of Saint Lawrence at Forillon National Park on the eastern tip of the Gaspe Peninsula, Prince Edward Island National Park on the northern shore of the island, Kouchibouguac National Park on the northeastern coast of New Brunswick, Cape Breton Highlands National Park on the northern tip of Cape Breton Island, Gros Morne National Park on the west coast of Newfoundland, and a National Park Reserve in the Mingan Archipelago on the Côte-Nord of Quebec.

The five provinces bordering the Gulf of Saint Lawrence also have several provincial parks apiece, some of which preserve coastal features.

Undersea features

The Laurentian Channel is a feature of the floor of the Gulf that was formed during previous ice ages, when the Continental Shelf was eroded by the Saint Lawrence River during the periods when the sea level plunged. The Laurentian Channel is about 290 m (950 ft) deep and about 1,250 km (780 mi) long from the Continental Shelf to the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River. Deep waters with temperatures between 2 and 6.5 °C (36 and 44 °F) enter the Gulf at the continental slope and are slowly advected up the channel by estuariane circulation. [5] Over the 20th century, the bottom waters of the end of the channel (i.e. in the Saint Lawrence estuary) have become hypoxic. [6]

Cultural importance

The gulf has provided a historically important marine fishery for various First Nations that have lived on its shores for millennia and used its waters for transportation.

The first documented voyage by a European in its waters was by the French explorer Jacques Cartier in the year 1534. Cartier named the shores of the Saint Lawrence River "The Country of Canadas", after an indigenous word meaning "village" or "settlement", thus naming the world's second largest country. [7]

At just about the same period, Basques came to frequent the area for whale-hunting and trade with the First Nations people of the modern Canadian Atlantic and Quebec provinces. They left vestiges of their presence in many locations of the areadocks, furnaces, graveyards, etc.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Cabot Strait strait

Cabot Strait is a strait in eastern Canada approximately 110 kilometres wide between Cape Ray, Newfoundland and Cape North, Cape Breton Island. It is the widest of the three outlets for the Gulf of Saint Lawrence into the Atlantic Ocean, the others being the Strait of Belle Isle and Strait of Canso. It is named for the Genoese explorer Giovanni Caboto.

The Honguedo Strait is a strait in eastern Quebec, Canada, flowing between Anticosti Island and the Gaspé Peninsula. It is one of the two outlets of the Saint Lawrence River into its estuary, the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The other is the Jacques Cartier Strait on the north side of Anticosti Island.

The Jacques Cartier Strait is a strait in eastern Quebec, Canada, flowing between Anticosti Island and the Labrador Peninsula. It is one of the two outlets of the Saint Lawrence River into its estuary, the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The other is the Honguedo Strait on the south side of Anticosti Island.

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Canso Canal

The Canso Canal is a short canal located in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Mingan Archipelago

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Battle of the St. Lawrence

The Battle of the St. Lawrence involved marine and anti-submarine actions throughout the lower St. Lawrence River and the entire Gulf of Saint Lawrence, Strait of Belle Isle, Anticosti Island and Cabot Strait from May–October 1942, September 1943, and again in October–November 1944. During this time, German U-boats sank several merchant ships and four Canadian warships. There were several near shore actions involving the drop of German spies, or the attempted pick up of escaping prisoners of war. Despite the 23 ships lost, this battle marked a strategic victory for Canadian forces as ultimately they managed to disrupt U-boat activity, protect Canadian and Allied convoys, and intercept all attempted shore operations. This marked the first time that a foreign power had inflicted casualties in Canadian inland waters since the US incursions in the War of 1812.

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Convoy LN-7 was a trade convoy of merchant ships during the Second World War. It was one of the numbered LN convoys from Quebec City to Goose Bay, Labrador. The convoy was found on 2 September 1942 by U-517, which then destroyed the merchant ship Donald Stewart early the next morning.


  1. "Atlantic region, Government of Canada, page 86" (PDF). Retrieved 14 March 2018.
  2. "Limits of Oceans and Seas, 3rd edition" (PDF). International Hydrographic Organization. 1953. Retrieved 7 February 2010.
  3. "Fisheries and Oceans Canada - Quebec Region - Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence". Retrieved 14 March 2018.
  4. "Parks Reserves and Natural Sites". Tourisme Îles de la Madeleine.
  5. Galbraith, P.S., Pettipas, R.G., Chassé, J., Gilbert, D., Larouche, P., Pettigrew, B., Gosselin, A., Devine, L. and Lafleur, C. 2009. Physical Oceanographic Conditions in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 2008. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Res. Doc. 2009/014. iv + 69 p.
  6. Gilbert, D., B. Sundby, C. Gobeil, A. Mucci and G.-H. Tremblay. 2005. A seventy-two-year record of diminishing deep-water oxygen in the St. Lawrence estuary: The northwest Atlantic connection. Limnol. Oceanogr., 50(5): 1654–1666.
  7. Document "Discovers Gulf of Saint Lawrence" Document "Discovers Gulf of Saint Lawrence" Check |url= value (help).Missing or empty |title= (help)