Grand Banks of Newfoundland

The Grand Banks of Newfoundland are a group of underwater plateaus south-east of Newfoundland on the North American continental shelf. These areas are relatively shallow, ranging from 15 to 91 metres (50 to 300 ft) in depth. The cold Labrador Current mixes with the warm waters of the Gulf Stream here, often causing extreme foggy conditions.

The mixing of these waters and the shape of the ocean bottom lifts nutrients to the surface. These conditions helped to create one of the richest fishing grounds in the world. Fish species include Atlantic cod, swordfish, haddock and capelin; shellfish include scallop and lobster. The area also supports large colonies of seabirds such as northern gannets, shear waters and sea ducks and various sea mammals such as seals, dolphins and whales.

Overfishing in the late 20th century caused the collapse of several species, particularly cod, leading to the closure of the Canadian Grand Banks fishery in 1993.

Grand Banks
Map showing the Grand Banks


The Grand Banks were extensively glaciated during the last glacial maximum. By approximately 13,000 years ago, the majority of the ice had melted, leaving the Grand Banks exposed as several islands extending for hundreds of kilometres. It is believed that rising sea levels submerged these around 8,000 years ago.[1]

Historic chart including the Grand Banks.

While there is no archaeological evidence for a European presence near the Grand Banks between the short-lived Greenland Norse settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows in CE 1000 and John Cabot's transatlantic crossing in 1497, there is some evidence that voyagers from Portugal,[2] the Basque Region[3] and England (especially those from Bristol)[4] and others[5] preceded Cabot.[6] In the 15th century some texts refer to a land called Bacalao, the land of the codfish, which is possibly Newfoundland. Within a few years of Cabot's voyage the existence of fishing grounds on the Grand Banks became generally known in Europe. Ships from France and Portugal were first to fish there, followed by those from Spain, while ships from England were scarce in the early years.[7] This soon changed especially after Bernard Drake's raid in 1585 which virtually wiped out the Spanish and Portuguese fishing industry in this area.[8] These fish stocks thus became important for the early economies of eastern Canada and New England.

On 18 November 1929, a major earthquake (known as the 1929 Grand Banks earthquake) on the southwestern part of the Grand Banks bordering the Laurentian Channel caused an underwater landslide which resulted in extensive damage to transatlantic cables and generated a rare Atlantic tsunami that struck the south coast of Newfoundland, claiming 29 lives on the Burin Peninsula.[9]

Technological advances in fishing such as large factory ships and sonar, as well as geopolitical disputes over territorial sea and exclusive economic zone (EEZ) boundaries, have led to overfishing and a serious decline in the fish stocks of the Grand Banks from around 1990. The Canadian Grand Banks fishery was closed in 1993.[10]

Canada's EEZ currently occupies the majority of the Grand Banks except for the lucrative "nose" (eastern extremity, near the Flemish Cap) and "tail" (southern extremity) of the fishing bank. The 1783 Treaty of Paris gave the United States shared rights to fish in these waters, but that section of the Treaty is no longer in force. The French territory Saint Pierre and Miquelon exclusive economic zone occupies a pin-shaped section at the west edge of the Grand Banks, with the 22 kilometres (12 nmi; 14 mi) radius head of the pin surrounding the islands and the needle heading south for 348 km (188 nmi; 216 mi).


Canada is currently performing the hydrographic and geological surveys necessary for claiming the entire continental shelf off eastern Canada, under the auspices of the latest United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Once this aspect of UNCLOS is ratified, Canada will presumably control these remaining parts of Grand Banks which are outside of its EEZ jurisdiction.

Petroleum reserves have also been discovered and a number of oil fields are under development in this region, most notably the Hibernia, Terra Nova, and White Rose projects; the harsh environment on the Grand Banks also led to the Ocean Ranger disaster.


Semi-fictional depictions of fishermen working on the Grand Banks can be found in Rudyard Kipling's novel Captains Courageous (1897) and in Sebastian Junger's non-fiction book The Perfect Storm (1997). The Grand Banks are also portrayed in the 1990 film The Hunt for Red October.

See also


  1. ^ Shaw, John. "Palaeogeography of Atlantic Canadian Continental Shelves from the Last Glacial Maximum to the Present, with an Emphasis on Flemish Cap". J. North w. Atl. Fish. Sci. 37: 119–126. doi:10.2960/J.v37.m565.
  2. ^ Silva, A. J. M. (14–16 January 2015). Barata, F. T.; Rocha, J. M., eds. "The fable of the cod and the promised sea - About Portuguese traditions of bacalhau". Heritages and Memories from the Sea, Proceedings of the 1st International Conference of the UNESCO Chair in Intangible Heritage and Traditional Know-How: Linking Heritage. Évora: University of Evora. pp. 130–143.
  3. ^ Kurlansky, Mark (1997). "The Race to Codlandia". Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World. United States: Penguin Books. pp. 16–26. ISBN 978-0-14-027501-8.
  4. ^ "European Exploration: From Earliest Times to 1497". Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Site Project. Retrieved 2012-01-05.
  5. ^ Seaver, Kirsten (2004). Maps, Myths, and Men: The Story of the Vinland Map. Stanford University Press. pp. 75–86. ISBN 978-0-8047-4962-6.
  6. ^ Kurlansky, Mark (1997). "The Race to Codlandia". Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World. United States: Penguin Books. pp. 18–31. ISBN 978-0-14-027501-8.
  7. ^ "European Exploration: From Earliest Times to 1497". Heritage Newfoundland and Labrador. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  8. ^ Prowse, D. W (2007). A History of Newfoundland from the English, Colonial and Foreign Record. Heritage Books. pp. 79–81. ISBN 978-078-842310-9.
  9. ^ Yalçiner, Ahmet C.; Pelinovsky, Efim N.; Okal, Emile & Synolakis, Costas E., eds. (2003). "Submarine Landslides and Tsunamis". Istanbul, Turkey: Springer Science+Business Media. pp. 177–178. ISBN 978-1-4020-1349-2. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  10. ^ Zugarramurdi, Aurora; Parin, María A. & Lupin, Hector M. (1995). "Economic Engineering Applied to the Fishery Industry". Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. p. 11. ISBN 92-5103738-8. Retrieved 28 January 2019.

External links

Coordinates: 45°14′13″N 50°59′21.2″W / 45.23694°N 50.989222°W

880 Naval Air Squadron

880 Naval Air Squadron was a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm carrier based squadron formed in January 1941. The squadron served throughout the Second World War being embarked in the carriers HMS Furious, Indomitable, Argus and Implacable serving off East Africa, in the Mediterranean, off Norway and in the Far East. 880 Squadron was disbanded two weeks after VJ day at the Mobile Naval Air Base HMS Nabswick at Schofields, Sydney, Australia.The squadron was re-formed as an anti-submarine squadron of the Royal Canadian Navy in May 1951 and was renamed VS-880 following the USN naming convention in 1952. In March 1975 its role was significantly altered and the squadron was re-designated as 880 Maritime Reconnaissance Squadron under which name it served until CFB Summerside was closed in 1990. From 1981 onwards 880 Squadron provided support for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the government department responsible for managing Canada's ocean resources. 880's CP-121 Trackers were used to patrol Georges Bank and the Grand Banks of Newfoundland to monitor foreign fishing fleets. The squadron has never been officially disbanded and still exists as a "zero strength" unit.

Alexander S. Smith

Alexander Smith Smith (August 24, 1868 — November 10, 1916) was a hardware merchant and political figure in Saskatchewan. He represented Moosomin from 1898 to 1905 in the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories and then Moosomin in the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan from 1908 to 1916 as a Liberal.

He was born at sea off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, the son of A.S. Smith, a native of Scotland, and was educated in St. Marys, Ontario. Smith came to Moosomin, Saskatchewan, establishing a tinsmithing and hardware business. He served on the town council and was the town's second mayor. In 1892, Smith married Kate R. Ross. He was defeated by Daniel David Ellis when he ran for election to the Saskatchewan assembly in 1905. Poor health later forced Smith to retire to Arizona for the winters.

Azores Current

The Azores Current is a generally eastward to southeastward-flowing ocean current in the North Atlantic Ocean. It originates near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland where the Gulf Stream splits into two branches, the northern branch becoming the North Atlantic Current and the south branch the Azores Current.Recent research suggests that the outflow of salty water from the Mediterranean Sea plays a role in strengthening the Azores Current.

Banks dory

The Banks dory, or Grand Banks dory, is a type of dory. They were used as traditional fishing boats from the 1850s on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. The Banks dory is a small, open, narrow, flat-bottomed and slab-sided boat with a particularly narrow transom. They were inexpensive to build and could be stacked or nested inside each other and stored on the decks of larger fishing vessels which functioned as mother ships.

Banks dories have long overhangs at the bow and stern which helps them lift over waves. There were one-man and two-man versions. Most could be fitted with sails. The dories became more stable in when they were loaded with about half a ton of catch.

Cries from the Deep

Cries from the Deep (French: Les pièges de la mer) is a 1982 documentary directed by Jacques Gagné about Jacques Cousteau's exploration of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.Filmed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Québec, Canada, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, St. Lawrence River, Québec and Ontario, Canada, and the St. Lawrence Seaway, Québec and Ontario, Canada.

Flemish Cap

The Flemish Cap is an area of shallow waters in the north Atlantic Ocean centered roughly at 47° north, 45° west or about 563 km (350 miles) east of St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.

The shallow water is caused by a wide underwater plateau covering an extended area of 42,000 km² (12,000 square miles). Depths at the cap range from approximately 122 m (400 feet) to 700 m (2,300 feet).

The Flemish Cap is located within an area of transition between the cold waters of the Labrador Current and warmer waters influenced by the Gulf Stream. The mixing of the warmer and colder waters over the plateau produces the characteristic clockwise circulation current over the cap.

The waters of the Flemish Cap are deeper and warmer than the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. The 58,000-square-kilometre area may have served as an important refuge for marine species during the last ice age.The Flemish Cap lies outside Canada's 200 nautical mile (370 km) Exclusive Economic Zone established in 1977, and is therefore in international fishing waters. Overfishing has become a serious issue in recent years. Cod and American plaice are particularly endangered here and the numbers of redfish have shown a significant decline.In recent years, Canada had made an effort to prevent overfishing in the region by use of provisions of the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act and the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement.

The origin of the Flemish Cap's name is unclear. It arguably refers to Flemish fishermen venturing out this far west in the nineteenth century.

Fogo Seamounts

The Fogo Seamounts, also called the Fogo Seamount chain, are a group of seamounts located about 500 km (311 mi) offshore of Newfoundland and southwest of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. They consist of basaltic submarine volcanoes that formed during the Early Cretaceous period.The volcanic activity that formed the Fogo Seamounts could have originated in two ways. They may have formed as a result of magma rising along a linear fault zone or from the North American Plate passing over the Canary or Azores hotspots.

Gil Eannes (ship)

Gil Eannes is a former Portuguese hospital ship, now permanently moored in the Port of Viana do Castelo, serving as museum ship and youth hostel.

The official name of the ship is written according to the old spelling of the Portuguese language, but occasionally it appears written with the modern spelling Gil Eanes.

Between 1955 and 1973, Gil Eannes was the flagship of the Portuguese White Fleet that operated in the codfish fishing in the seas of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and Greenland. As the flagship of the White Fleet and besides her main function as hospital ship, Gil Eannes served also as maritime authority, mail ship, tug, icebreaker and general support ship for the Portuguese fishing vessels.

Harold Innis and the cod fishery

Harold Adams Innis (November 5, 1894 – November 8, 1952) was a professor of political economy at the University of Toronto and the author of seminal works on Canadian economic history and on media and communication theory. He helped develop the staples thesis which holds that Canada's culture, political history and economy have been decisively influenced by the exploitation and export of a series of staples such as fur, fish, wood, wheat, mined metals and fossil fuels. Innis's communications writings explore the role of media in shaping the culture and development of civilizations.After the publication of his book The Fur Trade in Canada (1930) Innis turned to a study of an earlier staple — the cod fished for centuries off the eastern coasts of North America, especially the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

The result was The Cod Fisheries: The History of an International Economy published 10 years after the fur trade study. Innis tells the detailed history of competing empires in the exploitation of a teeming, natural resource -- a history that ranges over five hundred years. He begins by citing a report recounting John Cabot's 1497 voyage to North America that marvels about how "the sea there is swarming with fish, which can be taken not only with the net but in baskets let down with a stone, so that it sinks in the water." This abundance attracted various European nations, but Spain dominated the fishery until the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. The British then took over with the French and later, American colonists, as their main rivals.Throughout his 590-page study, Innis focuses on the complex inter-relationships among economics, culture and technology. He writes, for example, that the English were able to dominate the fishery after developing a method of curing their catches onshore, then transporting the dried fish to Mediterranean countries where there was a demand for a higher protein diet. This combined with consumer preferences for dried fish over cod packed in brine meant higher prices, especially in Catholic countries where the church required the regular consumption of fish. Thus, dried cod sold in Spain allowed England to receive substantial amounts of the precious metals that the Spanish were bringing from their colonies in the New World. "Cod from Newfoundland was the lever by which she [England] wrested her share of the riches of the New World from Spain."Innis shows how the cod fishery was interwoven economically with the slave trade and international markets for such other products as sugar, tobacco and rum. He argues that rivalry between the British and the colonists in New England led to the American Revolution. While his study of the fur trade focused on the continental interior with its interlocking rivers and lakes, The Cod Fisheries looks outward at global trade and empire showing the far-reaching effects of one staple product, both on imperial centres and on marginal colonies such as Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New England. Biographer, John Watson argues that the book foreshadowed Innis's later work exploring the relationships between communications technologies and the rise and fall of empires.

Jeanne d'Arc Basin

The Jeanne d'Arc Basin is an offshore sedimentary basin located about 340 kilometres (~210 miles) to the basin centre, east-southeast of St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. This basin formed in response to the large scale plate tectonic forces that ripped apart the super-continent Pangea and also led to sea-floor spreading in the North Atlantic Ocean. This basin is one of a series of rift basins that are located on the broad, shallow promontory of continental crust known as the Grand Banks of Newfoundland off Canada's east coast. The basin was named after a purported 20 metres (11 fathom) shoal labelled as "Ste. Jeanne d'Arc" on out-dated bathymetric charts and which was once thought to represent a local exposure of basement rocks similar to the Virgin Rocks.

Laurentian Slope Seismic Zone

The Laurentian Slope Seismic Zone is a seismically active area in Atlantic Canada located on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. It was the epicenter of the magnitude 7.2 1929 Grand Banks earthquake. Since then, more than 20 relatively minor earthquakes have occurred.

List of shipwrecks in 1794

The list of shipwrecks in 1794 includes some ships sunk, wrecked or otherwise lost during 1794.

List of shipwrecks in June 1834

The list of shipwrecks in June 1834 includes all ships sunk, foundered, grounded, or otherwise lost during June 1834.

Ocean Ranger

Ocean Ranger was a semi-submersible mobile offshore drilling unit that sank in Canadian waters on 15 February 1982. It was drilling an exploration well on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, 267 kilometres (166 mi) east of St. John's, Newfoundland, for Mobil Oil of Canada, Ltd. (MOCAN) with 84 crew members on board when it sank. There were no survivors.

Ocean bank

An ocean bank, sometimes referred to as a fishing bank or simply bank, is a part of the seabed which is shallow compared to its surrounding area, such as a shoal or the top of an underwater hill. Somewhat like continental slopes, ocean banks slopes can upwell as tidal and other flows intercept them, resulting sometimes in nutrient rich currents. Because of this, some large banks, such as Dogger Bank and the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, are among the richest fishing grounds in the world.

There are some banks that were reported in the 19th century by navigators, such as Wachusett Reef, whose existence is doubtful.

Titanic Canyon

Titanic Canyon is a submarine canyon located south of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, Canada. Its name was proposed in 1991 by marine geologist Alan Ruffman for the remembrance of British passenger liner RMS Titanic, the wreck of which lies about 34 km (21 mi) south of the head of Titanic Canyon on its eastern slope.

USS Mercury

USS Mercury may refer to:

USS Mercury (1776) was a ketch authorized by the Continental Congress in 1776 and captured off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland by the Royal Navy 10 September 1780

USS Mercury (1781) was a schooner built in 1781 and served the Continental Navy as a packet, but facts of her service are unknown

USS Mercury (1807) was a revenue cutter launched 6 April 1807 and served the Revenue Cutter Service until 1820

USS Mercury (1861) was a sidewheel steamer tug purchased and rebuilt by the US Navy in 1861 and decommissioned in 1870

USS Mercury (ID-3012) was originally the German SS Barbarossa seized by the US Navy and used to ferry troops during World War I

USS Mercury (AK-42) was acquired by the US Navy 20 June 1941 and decommissioned 28 May 1959

USNS Mercury (T-AGM-21) was a missile range instrumentation ship acquired by MSTS in 1965.

USS Queen of France (1777)

USS Queen of France was a frigate in the Continental Navy. She was named for Marie Antoinette.

Queen of France was an old ship purchased in France in 1777 by American commissioners, Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane, and fitted out as a 28-gun frigate. She was in Boston Harbor by December 1778.

In a squadron commanded by Captain John Burroughs Hopkins, Queen of France, commanded by Captain Joseph Olney, departed Boston, Massachusetts 13 March 1779. She cruised along the Atlantic coast as far south as Charleston, South Carolina to destroy small armed vessels operating out of New York to prey upon American shipping. Near dawn 6 April, some 16 miles east of Cape Henry, Virginia, they sighted schooner Hibernia, a 10-gun privateer, and took her after a short chase. At about the same time the next morning, the American warships saw a fleet of 9 sails and pursued them until catching their quarry that afternoon. Ship Jason, mounting 20 guns and carrying 150 men, headed the list of seven prizes that day, including also ship Meriah — carrying 10 six pounders and richly laden with provisions and cavalry equipment — brigs Patriot, Prince Ferdinand, John, and Batchelor, and finally schooner Chance. Hopkins ordered his ships home with their prizes, and Queen of France reached Boston with Maria, Hibernia, and three brigs on the 20th.

While Queen of France was in Boston, Captain John Rathbun relieved Capt. Olney in command of the frigate. She sailed 18 June with Providence and Ranger. She fell in with the British Jamaica Fleet of some 150 ships near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland about the middle of July. In the dense fog, the American warships pretended to be British frigates of the convoy’s escort and, sending boarding parties across by boats, quietly took possession of eleven prizes before slipping away at night. Three of the prizes were later recaptured, but the eight which reached Boston with the squadron late in August were sold for over a million dollars.

Queen of France departed Boston with frigates Providence and Boston, and sloop Ranger, on 23 November and cruised east of Bermuda. They took 12-gun privateer Dolphin on 5 December before arriving Charleston, on the 23rd.

Queen of France was sunk at Charleston to avoid falling into British hands when that city surrendered 11 May 1780.

As of 2012, no other ship has been named Queen of France.

Virgin Rocks

The Virgin Rocks are a series of rocky ridges just below the ocean surface on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. They rise to within 3.6 m of the surface and are a navigation hazard to oceangoing vessels in the North Atlantic.

The rocks were first reported by Jorge Reinel circa 1516 — 1522 and are noted as good fishing grounds in the era of the schooner fleet. It was used as a rendezvous point for the banking fleets. In June 1964 an expedition sponsored by the Government of Newfoundland, Memorial University of Newfoundland and the College of Fisheries explored the Virgin Rocks. A team of divers were sent down to mount a plaque on the ocean bottom in 19 m of water, the first time man had walked upon the surface of the Grand Banks.

An article in the Geological Society of America Bulletin lists their co-ordinates as 46° 25'N 50° 49'W, following an expedition by H.D. Lilly.The Virgin Rocks are referenced in Rudyard Kipling's novel, Captains Courageous. In chapter 8 they are described as follows:

"Next day several boats fished right above the cap of the Virgin; and Harvey, with them, looked down on the very weed of that lonely rock, which rises to within twenty feet of the surface. The cod were there in legions, marching solemnly over the leathery kelp..." It is also mentioned in the 1937 film of the same name and appears on the map.

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