The Bay of Biscay is a wide gulf of the North Atlantic Ocean tracing the coast of Western Europe.
An almost triangular-shaped gulf with an area of about 86,000 sq. miles, is located in the East by the West coast of France and in the South by the North coast of Spain.
The average depth of the bay is around 1745 meters and the maximum depth is 4735 meters. It has been observed that some parts of the Continental shelf prolong too far into the bay. This Continental shelf is the part of the continent that is usually submerged into the shallow waters known as the shelf sea. It results in shallow waters around some portions of the bay.
The Bay of Biscay is greatly influenced by the presence of the Atlantic Ocean. The clockwise circulation in the North Atlantic produces a similar circular motion in the surface currents of the bay. This fierce circulation causes abnormally high waves in the bay, thus making it more violent. Countless shipwrecks have been reported in the area due to the fiercest and the most gruesome weather of the Atlantic Ocean.
“Winds blow from America to Europe and the waves grow all the way as they travel from west to east,” says Prof Adrian New, from the National Oceanography Centre.
He further adds, “These swell waves can be felt in the Bay of Biscay if you’re still in deep water 100 miles out. They then become shorter choppier waves when you hit the continental shelf.”
The weather of the Bay is the most crucial thing to be worried about. Especially during winters, it wreaks havoc on the navigating ships. It turns too harsh and severe. The Late spring and early summer are comparatively better than winters but it still remains cool, cloudy, and at times foggy near the southwestern part of the gulf.
Brest, Nantes, La Rochelle, Bordeaux, and Bayonne in France, and Bilbao, Santander, Gijón, and Avilés in Spain are some significant ports of Bay of Biscay but none of them can handle the large vessels.
The Bay of Biscay holds a reputation of being the most violent and rough bay. It is always feared by the sailors. Not only the ships but also many lives have also been lost here. That’s why ships while going to the Mediterranean chose alternate routes like the French river rather than taking the route of the Bay of Biscay.
In recent history, a car carrier Modern Express caught in trouble at 230 miles South-West of Brest, France. High seas and gale-force winds, which are common in the bay made it even worse to rescue the carrier.
Some reports suggest that the Modern Express is incapable of maintaining its power during difficult times. “If you lose power your ship will turn sideways onto the waves and then you’re in serious trouble,” New says. “It will roll around like a bucking bronco and water can come over the sides. Then if the cargo moves to one side the ship can start to list.”
Although a ship can often manage to withhold in the rough seas due to its heavy engines below but shifting cargo is problematic.
“She’s floating on what looks like a very precarious angle,” Ware says. “It’s all to do with the centre of buoyancy and the centre of gravity. I suspect something very heavy has shifted inside her and the vessel can’t right herself – the weight is just in the wrong place.”
Not only today but it was even feared back during the time of World War two. It was a link between France and Spain but German-U had a control over it. Many American and British ships faced terrible destiny in the waters of bay and many lives have also been lost.
The Bay of Biscay lives up to that reputation even today. It is almost always rough for the sailors and their vessels, thus, making their journeys fairly hard.