How to tell the difference between kinds of bodies of water, in one map

bancroft's pictoral chart of geographical definitions

Do you know the difference between a strait and a channel? How about a gulf, bay or harbor?

This chart from 1870 lays that all out, including illustrating the main differences between an island (you know what an island is), archipelago (a group of islands) and isthmus (a strip of land between two larger lands that has water on two sides.)

Of course, some of these examples aren’t that clear — try telling the difference between the ocean and sea from this picture, for instance — so Vox went to the Oxford English Dictionary for further explanation.

According to that source, a bay is generally wider than a gulf, including its opening.

But the two terms are often interchanged.

Take the Gulf of Maine for example, which by that definition would be more of a bay.

Screenshot 2015-09-03 15.58.02

Meanwhile, straits and channels both link bodies of water, but the latter tend to be broader, Vox found. To add to the confusion, sounds are basically larger straits.

How many of these terms did you know?



Dan MacLeod

About Dan MacLeod

Dan MacLeod is the managing editor of the Bangor Daily News. He's an Orland native who moved to Portland in 2002 and now lives in Unity. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the New York Post and the Brooklyn Paper.