Strait of Gibraltar
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Gibraltar, Strait of(jĭbrôl`tər), Lat. Fretum Herculeum or Fretum Gaditanum, passage, c.36 mi (58 km) long, connecting the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, between southernmost Spain and northwesternmost Africa. Its western limits are Cape Trafalgar (Spain) and Cape Spartel (Morocco); its eastern limits Gibraltar and Point Almina (just E of Ceuta, NW Africa). The strait's width ranges from 8 mi (12.9 km) off Point Marroquí to 27 mi (43 km) at the western entrance. The surface current in the strait flows east from the Atlantic; a countercurrent flows out from the Mediterranean at greater depth. The two promontories at the eastern entrance are the classical Pillars of HerculesPillars of Hercules,
ancient mythological name for promontories flanking the east entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar. They are usually identified with Gibraltar in Europe and with Mt. Acha at Ceuta in Africa. The Jebel Musa (W of Ceuta) is also considered one of the pillars.
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Gibraltar, Strait of
a strait between the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula (Europe) and the northwestern part of Africa joining the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. It is 65 km long, 14-44 km wide, and has a depth of up to 388 m along the fairway (the deepest part measures 1,181 m). There are massifs on both shores of the strait: the Rock of Gibraltar on the north side and the Jebel Musa on the south. In ancient times these were called the Pillars of Hercules. The surface current flows eastward, while the deeper current flows westward. In the surface current the mean annual flow of Atlantic Ocean water into the Mediterranean is 55,198 cu km; the average temperature is 17° C, and the salinity is more than 36 parts per thousand. In the deeper current, the average annual flow of Mediterranean water into the Atlantic is 51,886 cu km; the average temperature is 13.5° C, and the salinity is 38 parts per thousand. The difference of 3,312 cu km is mainly caused by evaporation from the Mediterranean’s surface.
Because of its favorable geographic position, the Strait of Gibraltar has great economic and strategic significance; it is controlled by the English fortress of Gilbraltar. The Spanish seaport of La Línea is located on the northern shore.