North Sea, Or German Ocean (called the West sea by the Danes), an extensive arm of the Atlantic, which lies between Great Britain and the continent of Europe, extending from lat. 51° to 62° N., and Ion. 4° W. to 8° E.; greatest length about 700 m., breadth 400 m. It has the Atlantic ocean on the north; Norway, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and the N. extremity of France on the east and southeast; the strait of Dover on the southwest, by which it communicates with the English channel; England, Scotland, and the Orkney islands on the west; and the Shetland islands on the northwest. The shores are indented by numerous bays, inlets, and estuaries, the chief of which are the fiords of Böm-mel, Bukke, and Flekke on the coast of Norway; the Skager Rack, which communicates through the Cattegat with the Baltic; the fiords of Liim, Nissum, and Rinkiobing or Stavning, and the estuary of the Varde river in Denmark; the estuaries of the Eider, Elbe, and Weser in Germany; the Zuyder Zee and the mouths of the Maas and Scheldt in Holland; the estua-rielTof the Thames, Humber, and the Wash in England; and the 'friths of Forth, Tay, and Moray in Scotland. Besides the Orkneys and the Shetlands there are many other islands, all on the coasts of Norway, Denmark, Germany, and Holland. The most important are Great Sartoro, Bommelo, and Karmo, in Norway; Fano and- Manö in Denmark; Romo, Sylt, Föhr, Amrum, Nordmarsch, Hooge, Pellworm, Nordstrand, Neuwerk, Wangeroog, Spiekeroog, Langeroog, Baltrnm, Nordeney, Juist, Borkum, and several smaller in Germany; Heligoland, which belongs to England, opposite the mouth of the Elbe; Rottum, Schiermonnikoog, Ame-land, Ter Schelling, Vlieland, Texel, and the islands formed, by the deltas of the Maas and Scheldt, in Holland. The Bell rock and May rock, on each of which there is a lighthouse, are the only islands of the North sea on the coast of Great Britain. Floating lights have been established on several banks, and there are lighthouses at all the principal points and ports on its coasts.
The average depth of the sea is about 30 fathoms, but toward the Norwegian side the soundings increase to 190 fathoms. The North sea is traversed by several extensive banks. The Dogger bank, which is the principal, lies near the middle, between lat. 54° and 55°; the Fisher bank is its N. extension, between lat. 56° and 58°; another bank extends 110 m. in a N. E. direction from the frith of Forth, and one runs 105 m. N. W. from Denmark. The tidal wave which comes from the Atlantic passes along the W. coasts of Great Britain and Ireland, and enters the North sea by its N. extremity, continuing to rule the tides as far S. as the N. end of the strait of Dover, and, through this strait, to be felt in some degree in the English channel. On the N. coast of Scotland the rise is about 12 ft., and it increases, according to the figure of the shore, to 20 ft. at the Humber and 18 at Dover. The portion of the tidal wave which is intercepted by the English channel as it comes from the south passes directly through that channel, and meets the tide of the North sea about the N. extremity of the strait of Dover; an when the two floods meet, the southern is half a day earlier than the northern; or, in other words, the north wave is part of the tide preceding the one from the south which it meets; that time, and the interval taken by the tide in passing through the English channel, in all about 18 hours, being occupied by the tidal wave in making the complete circuit of Great Britain. - Several thousand people are occupied in the fisheries in the North sea, and the quality of the fish has long been celebrated.