Strait of Magellan

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Magellan, Strait of,

c.330 mi (530 km) long and 2 1-2 to 15 mi (4–24 km) wide, separating South America from Tierra del FuegoTierra del Fuego
, [Span.,=land of fire], archipelago, 28,476 sq mi (73,753 sq km), off S South America, separated from the mainland by the Strait of Magellan. It consists of one large island (sometimes called simply Tierra del Fuego), five medium-sized islands, and numerous
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 and other islands south of the continent. Except for a few miles at its eastern end in Argentina, it passes through Chile. The strait, discovered by Ferdinand MagellanMagellan, Ferdinand
, Port. Fernão de Magalhães, Span. Fernando de Magallanes, c.1480–1521, Portuguese navigator who sailed for Portugal and Spain. Born of a noble family, he was reared as a page in the royal household.
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 in 1520, was important in the days of sailing ships, especially before the building of the Panama CanalPanama Canal,
waterway across the Isthmus of Panama, connecting the Atlantic (by way of the Caribbean Sea) and Pacific oceans, built by the United States (1904–14, on territory leased from the republic of Panama) and expanded by Pamana (2007–16).
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, and is still used by ships rounding South America. One of the most scenic waterways in the world, it affords an inland passage protected from almost continuous ocean storms. However, the strait is often foggy. The major city on the strait is Punta Arenas, on the mainland.

Magellan, Strait of


a strait between the mainland of South America and the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, joining the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The coastline belongs to Chile. The strait is about 550 km long and 3.3 km wide at its narrowest point and has a minimum depth in the channel of 31-33 m. The northwestern part is the narrower, more winding, and deeper, with a steep, rocky coast from which glaciers descend into the water. The northeastern part is broader and shallower, with low lagoon banks. Navigation is treacherous because of strong westerly winds and numerous underwater rocks and shoals. In the narrows the tidal currents reach 25 km/hr. The chief port is Punta Arenas. The strait was discovered and first crossed by F. Magellan in 1520.