La Pérouse Strait

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La Pérouse Strait
Karafuto SakhalinISLAND.JPG
La Pérouse Strait, from Cape Sōya, Hokkaido
Japanese name
Kanji 宗谷海峡
Russian name
Russian Пролив Лаперуза
Romanization Proliv Laperuza

La Pérouse Strait, or Sōya Strait, is a strait dividing the southern part of the Russian island of Sakhalin (Karafuto) from the northern part of the Japanese island of Hokkaidō, and connecting the Sea of Japan on the west with the Sea of Okhotsk on the east.

The strait is 40 km (25 mi) long and 20 to 40 m (66 to 131 ft) deep. A small rocky island, appropriately named Kamen Opasnosti (Russian for "Rock of Danger") is located in the Russian waters in the northeastern part of the strait. Another small island, Bentenjima, lies near the Japanese shore of the strait.

The strait is named after Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse, who explored the channel in 1787.[1]

Japan's territorial waters extend to three nautical miles into La Pérouse Strait instead of the usual twelve, reportedly to allow nuclear-armed United States Navy warships and submarines to transit the strait without violating Japan's prohibition against nuclear weapons in its territory.[2]


Between 1848 and 1874, American whaleships passed through the strait in the spring and summer as they made their way from the right whale grounds in the Sea of Japan to the Sea of Okhotsk to hunt right and bowhead whales.[3] The ship David Paddack (352 tons), Captain Swain, of Nantucket, was bound home with a full cargo when she wrecked in the strait in 1848.[4][5]

La Pérouse Strait charted by Lapérouse himself


  2. ^ Kyodo News, "Japan left key straits open for U.S. nukes", Japan Times, June 22, 2009.
  3. ^ Eliza Adams, of Fairhaven, Aug. 4, 1848, Old Dartmouth Historical Society (ODHS); Arnolda, of New Bedford, June 17, 1874, ODHS.
  4. ^ Bowditch, of Warren, Aug. 6, 1848, Nicholson Whaling Collection.
  5. ^ Starbuck, Alexander (1878). History of the American Whale Fishery from Its Earliest Inception to the year 1876. Castle. ISBN 1-55521-537-8. 

Coordinates: 45°43′20″N 142°01′36″E / 45.72222°N 142.02667°E / 45.72222; 142.02667