Strait of Belle Isle

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The Strait of Belle Isle (French: détroit de Belle Isle (Beautiful Island)), sometimes referred to as Straits of Belle Isle or Labrador Straits) is a waterway in eastern Canada that separates the Labrador Peninsula from the island of Newfoundland, in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The strait is approximately 125 kilometres long and ranges from a maximum width of 60 km to just 15 km at it narrowest, the average width being 18 km.

Navigation in the strait can be extremely hazardous with strong tidal currents interacting with the Labrador Current, depths reaching several hundred metres in places, sea ice for 8-10 months of the year, and variable weather conditions including gales and fog.

The strait is the northern outlet for the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the other two being the Cabot Strait and Strait of Canso. As such, it is also considered part of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system. While sea ice prevents year-round shipping, the Canadian Coast Guard maintains a vessel traffic service (VTS) to ensure collisions do not occur.

The name is derived from Belle Isle (Beautiful Island), located at the extreme eastern end of the strait and roughly equidistant between Table Head, Labrador, and Cape Bauld, Newfoundland.

A seasonal ferry service (April through January) operates at the western part of strait between St. Barbe, Newfoundland, and Blanc Sablon, Quebec[1]. New road construction for the Trans-Labrador Highway resulted in the removal of ferry services to outports in the northeastern part of the strait in 2002.

The idea of building a fixed link across the strait between Labrador and Newfoundland, known as the Newfoundland-Labrador fixed link, has been raised numerous times in recent decades following an unsuccessful attempt to build a tunnel carrying electrical wires in the mid-1970s. If such a link were built, it would likely be a 17-km-long submerged rail tunnel. The proposal is meant to reduce the province's reliance upon the Marine Atlantic ferry service to Nova Scotia, but the project's high costs and lack of suitable road network between Labrador and Quebec have been cited as major obstacles. The October 2003 provincial election resulted in the newly elected PC government announcing joint federal-provincial funding for a study of the concept, which was promptly derided by The Economist. [2]

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