1.a large inlet of the North Atlantic between Virginia and Maryland; fed by Susquehanna River
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les océans de la Terre (fr)[Classe...]
Chesapeake Bay (n.)
The Chesapeake Bay – Landsat photo
|Name origin: Chesepiooc, Algonquian for village "at a big river"|
|- left||Chester River, Choptank River, Nanticoke River, Pocomoke River|
|- right||Patapsco River, Patuxent River, Potomac River, Rappahannock River, York River, James River|
|- location||Havre de Grace, MD|
|- elevation||0 ft (0 m)|
|- location||Virginia Beach, VA|
|- elevation||0 ft (0 m)|
|Length||200 mi (322 km)|
|Width||30 mi (48 km)|
|Depth||46 ft (14 m)|
|Basin||64,299 sq mi (166,534 km2)|
|Area||4,479 sq mi (11,601 km2)|
|- average||78,300 cu ft/s (2,217 m3/s) |
|- max||389,000 cu ft/s (11,015 m3/s)|
|- min||9,800 cu ft/s (278 m3/s)|
The Chesapeake Bay ( // CHESS-ə-peek) is the largest estuary in the United States. It lies off the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by Maryland and Virginia. The Chesapeake Bay's drainage basin covers 64,299 square miles (166,534 km2) in the District of Columbia and parts of six states: New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. More than 150 rivers and streams drain into the bay.
The Chesapeake Bay is approximately 200 miles (300 km) long, from the Susquehanna River in the north to the Atlantic Ocean in the south. At its narrowest point between Kent County's Plum Point (near Newtown) and the Harford County shore near Romney Creek, the bay is 2.8 miles (4.5 km) wide; at its widest point, just south of the mouth of the Potomac River, it is 30 miles (50 km) wide. Total shoreline for the bay and its tributaries is 11,684 miles (18,804 km), and the surface area of the bay and its major tributaries is 4,479 square miles (11,601 km2). Average depth of the bay is 46 feet (14 m) and the maximum depth is 208 feet (63 m).
The bay is spanned in two places. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge crosses the bay in Maryland from Sandy Point (near Annapolis) to Kent Island; and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in Virginia connects Virginia Beach to Cape Charles. The bay is known for its beauty but in recent years it has been noted that the bay is becoming "emptier", with fewer crabs, oysters, and watermen.
The word Chesepiooc is an Algonquian word referring to a village "at a big river." It is the seventh oldest surviving English place-name in the U.S., first applied as "Chesepiook" by explorers heading north from the Roanoke Colony into a Chesapeake tributary in 1585 or 1586. In 2005, Algonquian linguist Blair Rudes "helped to dispel one of the area's most widely held beliefs: that 'Chesapeake' means something like 'Great Shellfish Bay.' It does not, Rudes said. The name might actually mean something like 'Great Water,' or it might have been just a village at the bay's mouth."
The Chesapeake Bay is the ria, or drowned valley, of the Susquehanna, meaning that it was where the river flowed when the sea level was lower. It is not a fjord, as the Laurentide Ice Sheet never reached as far south as the northernmost point on the bay.
The bay's geology, its present form, and its very location were created by a bolide impact event at the end of the Eocene (about 35.5 million years ago), forming the Chesapeake Bay impact crater and the Susquehanna River valley much later. The bay was formed starting about 10,000 years ago when rising sea levels at the end of the last ice age flooded the Susquehanna River valley. Parts of the bay, especially the Calvert County, Maryland, coastline, are lined by cliffs composed of deposits from receding waters millions of years ago. These cliffs, generally known as Calvert Cliffs, are famous for their fossils, especially fossilized shark teeth which are commonly found washed up on the beaches next to the cliffs. Scientists' Cliffs is a beach community in Calvert County named for the desire to create a retreat for scientists when the community was founded in 1935.
Much of the bay is shallow. At the point where the Susquehanna River flows into the bay, the average depth is 30 feet (9 m), although this soon diminishes to an average of 10 feet (3 m) from the city of Havre de Grace for about 35 miles (56 km), to just north of Annapolis. On average, the depth of the bay is 21 feet (7 m), including tributaries; over 24% of the bay is less than 6 ft (2 m) deep.
Since the bay is an estuary, it has fresh water, salt water and brackish water. Brackish water has three salinity zones — oligohaline, mesohaline, and polyhaline. The fresh water zone runs from the mouth of the Susquehanna River to north Baltimore. The oligohaline zone has very little salt. Salinity varies from 0.5 ppt to 10 ppt, and freshwater species can survive there. The north end of the oligohaline zone is north Baltimore and the south end is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The mesohaline zone has a medium amount of salt and runs from the Bay Bridge to the mouth of the Rappahannock River. Salinity there ranges from 10.7 ppt to 18 ppt. The polyhaline zone is the saltiest zone, and some of the water can be as salty as sea water. It runs from the mouth of the Rappahannock River to the mouth of the bay. The salinity ranges from 18.7 ppt to 36 ppt. (36 ppt is as salty as the ocean.)
The climate of the area surrounding the bay is primarily humid subtropical, with hot, very humid summers and cold to mild winters. Only the area around the mouth of the Susquehanna River is continental in nature, and the mouth of the Susquehanna River and the Susquehanna flats often freeze in winter. It is rare for the surface of the bay to freeze in winter, which happened most recently in the winter of 1976–77.
The largest rivers flowing directly into the bay, from north to south, are:
The Chesapeake Bay is home to numerous fauna that either migrate to the bay at some point during the year or live there year round. There are over 300 species of fish and numerous shellfish and crab species. Some of these include the Atlantic menhaden, Striped bass, American eel, Eastern oyster, and the Blue crab.
Birds include Osprey, Great Blue Heron, Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon, the last two of which were threatened by DDT; their numbers plummeted but have risen in recent years. The Piping Plover is a near threatened species which inhabits the wetlands.
Numerous flora also make the Chesapeake Bay their home both on land and underwater. Common submerged aquatic vegetation includes eelgrass and widgeon grass. A report in 2011 suggested that information on underwater grasses would be released, since "submerged grasses provide food and habitat for a number of species, adding oxygen to the water and improving water clarity." Other vegetation that makes its home in other parts of the bay are wild rice, various trees like the red maple and bald cypress, and spartina grass and phragmites.
In 1524, Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, in service of the French crown, sailed past the Chesapeake but did not enter the bay. Spanish explorer Lucas Vásquez de Ayllón sent an expedition out from Hispaniola in 1525 which reached the mouths of the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. It may have been the first European expedition to explore parts of the Chesapeake Bay, which the Spaniards called "Bahía de Santa María" or "Bahía de Madre de Dios." De Ayllón established a short-lived Spanish mission settlement, San Miguel de Gualdape, in 1526 along the Atlantic coast. Many scholars doubt the assertion that it was as far north as the Chesapeake; most place it in present-day Georgia's Sapelo Island. In 1573, governor of Spanish Florida, Pedro Menéndez de Márquez conducted further exploration of the Chesapeake.
With the arrival of English colonists at Cape Henry in 1607, Europeans again entered the bay. Captain John Smith of England explored and mapped the bay between 1607 and 1609, which was published in 1612 as A Map of Virginia. Smith wrote in his journal: "Heaven and earth have never agreed better to frame a place for man's habitation." The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, the United States' first all-water National Historic Trail, was created in July 2006, following the route of Smith's voyage.
There was a mass migration of southern English Cavaliers and their servants to the Chesapeake Bay region between 1640 and 1675.
It would again seen conflict during War of 1812; in 1814 British warships attacked Fort McHenry in Baltimore; in a separate attack, British troops sailed up the Chesapeake, landed on the west side near Washington D.C., and trekked overland to burn the capital. In response, the Chesapeake Bay Flotilla
Today, the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant uses water from the bay to cool its reactor.
The Chesapeake Bay forms a link in the Intracoastal Waterway, connecting the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal (linking the bay to the Delaware River) with the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal (linking the bay, via the Elizabeth River, to the Albemarle Sound in North Carolina).
During the later half of the 19th century and first half of the 20th century, the bay was plied by passenger steamships and packet boat lines connecting the various cities on it, notably the Baltimore Steam Packet Company.
In the later twentieth century, a series of road crossings were built. One was The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, connecting Virginia's eastern shore with its mainland and is approximately 20 miles (32 km) long; it has trestle bridges as well as two stretches of two-mile (3 km)-long tunnels which allow unimpeded shipping; the bridge is supported by four 5.25-acre (21,200 m2) man-made islands.
The bay is mostly known for its seafood production, especially blue crabs, clams and oysters. In the middle of the twentieth century, the bay supported 9,000 full-time watermen, according to one account. Today, the body of water is less productive than it used to be because of runoff from urban areas (mostly on the Western Shore) and farms (especially on the Eastern Shore and in the Susquehanna River watershed), over-harvesting, and invasion of foreign species.
The plentiful oyster harvests led to the development of the skipjack, the state boat of Maryland, which is the only remaining working boat type in the United States still under sail power. Other characteristic bay-area workboats include sail-powered boats such as the log canoe, the pungy, the bugeye, and the motorized Chesapeake Bay deadrise, the state boat of Virginia.
In contrast to harvesting wild oysters, oyster farming is a growing industry for the bay to help maintain the estuary's productivity as well as a natural effort for filtering impurities from the water in an effort to reduce the effects of man-made pollution. Oysters are hermaphroditic and will change gender at least once during their lifetime, often starting as male and ending as female; there are numerous ways to cook and eat them, as well as recipes and sauces to accompany oyster dishes. One account:
The Chesapeake oyster – sometimes called Chesapeake white gold – has a flavor and texture that begs connoisseurs to come back and shuck just a few more.
The bay is famous for its rockfish, a regional name for striped bass. Once on the verge of extinction, rockfish have made a significant comeback because of legislative action that put a moratorium on rockfishing, which allowed the species to re-populate. Rockfish are now able to be fished in strictly controlled and limited quantities.
The Chesapeake Bay is a main feature for tourists who visit Maryland and Virginia each year. Fishing, crabbing, swimming, boating, kayaking, and sailing are extremely popular activities enjoyed on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. As a result, tourism has a notable impact on Maryland's economy One report suggested that Annapolis was an appealing spot for families, water sports and boating. Commentator Terry Smith spoke about the bay's beauty:
The water is glassy, smooth and gorgeous, his wake white against the deep blue. That's the problem with the Chesapeake. It's so damned beautiful.
One account suggested how the Chesapeake attracts people:
You see them everywhere on Maryland's Eastern Shore, the weekend sailors. They are unmistakable with their deep tans, their baggy shorts, their frayed polo shirts, their Top-Siders worn without socks. Some may not even own their own boats, much less win regattas, but they are inexorably drawn to the Chesapeake Bay ... I planned to spend my days boating, eating as many Chesapeake Bay blue crabs as possible and making a little study of Eastern Shore locals. For city folk like me, they're interesting, even exotic –the weather-beaten crabbers and oystermen called "watermen," gentlemen-farmers and sharecroppers, boat builders, antiques dealers – all of whom sound like Southerners with mouthfuls of marbles when they talk. — Susan Spano, LA Times, 2008
In the 1970s, the Chesapeake Bay was discovered to contain one of the planet's first identified marine dead zones, where hypoxic waters were so depleted of oxygen they were unable to support life, resulting in massive fish kills. Today the bay's dead zones are estimated to kill 75,000 tons of bottom-dwelling clams and worms each year, weakening the base of the estuary's food chain and robbing the blue crab in particular of a primary food source. Crabs are sometimes observed to amass on shore to escape pockets of oxygen-poor water, a behavior known as a "crab jubilee". Hypoxia results in part from large algal blooms, which are nourished by the runoff of residential, farm and industrial waste throughout the watershed. One report in 2010 criticized Amish farmers for having cows which "generate heaps of manure that easily washes into streams and flows onward into the Chesapeake Bay."
The runoff and pollution have many components that help contribute to the algal blooms which is mainly fed by phosphorus and nitrogen. This algae prevents sunlight from reaching the bottom of the bay while alive and deoxygenates the bay's water when it dies and rots. The erosion and runoff of sediment into the bay, exacerbated by devegetation, construction and the prevalence of pavement in urban and suburban areas, also blocks vital sunlight. The resulting loss of aquatic vegetation has depleted the habitat for much of the bay's animal life. Beds of eelgrass, the dominant variety in the southern bay, have shrunk by more than half there since the early 1970s. Overharvesting, pollution, sedimentation and disease has turned much of the bay's bottom into a muddy wasteland.
One particularly harmful source of toxicity is Pfiesteria piscicida, which can affect both fish and humans. Pfiesteria caused a small regional panic in the late 1990s when a series of large blooms started killing large numbers of fish while giving swimmers mysterious rashes, and nutrient runoff from chicken farms was blamed for the growth.
The bay improved slightly in terms of the overall health of its ecosystem, earning a rating of 31 out of 100 in 2010, up from 28 in 2008. An estimate in 2006 from a "blue ribbon panel" said cleanup costs would be $15 billion. Compounding the problem is the fact that 100,000 new residents move to the area each year. A report in 2008 in the Washington Post suggested that government administrators had overstated progress on cleanup efforts as a way to "preserve the flow of federal and state money to the project." In 2011 in January, there were reports that millions of fish had died, but officials suggested it was probably the result of extremely cold weather.
While the bay's salinity is ideal for oysters and the oyster fishery was at one time the bay's most commercially viable, the population has in the last fifty years been devastated. Maryland once had roughly 200,000 acres (810 km2) of oyster reefs. Today it has about 36,000. It has been estimated that in pre-colonial times, oysters could filter the entirety of the bay in about 3.3 days; by 1988 this time had increased to 325 days. The harvest's gross value decreased 88% from 1982 to 2007. One report suggested the bay had fewer oysters in 2008 than 25 years earlier.
The primary problem is overharvesting. Lax government regulations allow anyone with a license to remove oysters from state-owned beds, and although limits are set, they are not strongly enforced. The overharvesting of oysters has made it difficult for them to reproduce, which requires close proximity to one another. A second cause for the oyster depletion is that the drastic increase in human population caused a sharp increase in pollution flowing into the bay. The bay's oyster industry has also suffered from two diseases: MSX and Dermo.
The depletion of oysters has had a particularly harmful effect on the quality of the bay. Oysters serve as natural water filters, and their decline has further reduced the water quality of the bay. Water that was once clear for meters is now so turbid that a wader may lose sight of their feet before their knees are wet.
Efforts of federal, state and local governments, working in partnership through the Chesapeake Bay Program, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other nonprofit environmental groups, to restore or at least maintain the current water quality have had mixed results. One particular obstacle to cleaning up the bay is that much of the polluting substances arise far upstream in tributaries lying within states far removed from the bay. Despite the state of Maryland spending over $100 million to restore the bay, conditions have continued to grow worse. Twenty years ago, the bay supported over six thousand oystermen. There are now fewer than 500.
Efforts to repopulate the bay via hatcheries have been carried out by a group called the Oyster Recovery Partnership, with some success. They recently placed 6 million oysters on 8 acres (32,000 m2) of the Trent Hall sanctuary. Scientists from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William & Mary claim that experimental reefs created in 2004 now house 180 million native oysters, Crassostrea virginica, which is far less than the billions that once existed.
There are several magazines and publications that cover topics directly related to the Chesapeake Bay and life and tourism within the bay region.
The Capital, a newspaper based in Annapolis, reports about news pertaining to the Western Shore of Maryland and the Annapolis area. Chesapeake Bay Magazine and PropTalk focus on powerboating while SpinSheet focuses on sailing.
Tom Wisner has recorded several albums, often about the Chesapeake Bay, and he tried to "capture the voice of the water and the sky, of the rocks and the trees, of the fish and the birds, of the gods of nature he believed still watched over it all." He was known as the Bard of the Chesapeake Bay.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Chesapeake Bay|
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