English Channel, Fr. La Manche [the sleeve], arm of the Atlantic Ocean, c.350 (560 km) long, between France and Great Britain. It is 112 mi (180 km) wide at its west entrance, between Land's End, England, and Ushant, France. Its greatest width, c.150 mi (240 km) is between Lyme Bay and the Gulf of St.-Malo; at the east, between Dover and Cape Gris-Nez, it is 21 mi (34 km) wide. The Strait of Dover connects the Channel with the North Sea. Principal islands are the Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands. The principal Channel ports are Plymouth, Southampton, Portsmouth, and Dover (in England) and Cherbourg, Le Havre, Dieppe, and Calais (in France). Noted resorts include Deauville, France, and Brighton, England. A train-ferry service to carry passengers and freight between Paris and London was opened between Dover and Dunkirk in 1936. There are other ferry and hovercraft links, as well as the link under the Channel via the Channel Tunnel, opened in 1994. In 1785, J. P. Blanchard and Dr. John Jeffries crossed the Channel by balloon; the first person to swim across was Matthew Webb (1875); and the first airplane crossing was made by Blériot in 1909.
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