Davis Strait

Davis Strait is a bay of the northern Atlantic Ocean lying between southeastern Baffin Island (Canada) and southwestern Greenland. The strait separates Baffin Bay in the north from Labrador Sea in the south. It is approximately 400 miles (650 km) in length from north to south and 300-400 miles in width. There is a striking variation in the temperature of Davis Strait waters; the relatively warm West Greenland Current carries water northward, while the Labrador Current transports cold water and masses of ice southward along Baffin Island's eastern shore.

The main shipping routes of Davis Strait are in the warmer waters near the Greenland coast and the principal Greenland ports, including Paamiut, Nuuk, and

Sisimiut, are in this area. The eastern shore of Baffin Island is sparsely settled and has few permanent settlements because of the difficult coastal terrain and the rough seas.

Davis Strait is named after John Davis (earlier spelling Davys), an early English navigator, born near Dartmouth, England, in about 1550. He made three voyages in search of a North West Passage from Europe to the Indies in 1585, 1586, and 1587. During the last of these voyages, he explored the strait that bears his name along the west coast of Greenland as far as 73° N. Davis was the first person to draw attention to the sealing and whaling possibilities in Davis Strait and to show that the Newfoundland cod fisheries extended far northward along the Labrador Coast.

In 1588, Davis commanded a ship in the battle against the Spanish Armada, and in 1591 he sailed with the English navigator Thomas Cavendish on an expedition to the South Seas, during which Davis explored the Falkland Islands. He sailed on several more long voyages, but was killed by Japanese pirates near the present site of Singapore.

Davis was also the inventor of a navigational instrument that became known as the Davis quadrant. He was the author of several works on navigation, including Traverse Book from his final voyage, which subsequently became the standard model for ships' logbooks. He was also the author of The Seaman's Secrets, published in 1594 and republished several times subsequently. This work is a valuable treatise on navigation and includes a tide table and a method of finding the declination of the sun.

Ralph M. Myerson

See also Baffin Island; Davis, John; Labrador Sea; Nuuk; Sisimiut

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