The Skagerrak is a strait running between the southeast coast of Norway, the southwest coast of Sweden, and the Jutland peninsula of Denmark, connecting the North Sea and the Kattegat sea area, which leads to the Baltic Sea.
Both names Skagerrak and Kattegat are commonly held to be of Dutch origin. Skagerrak means in Dutch approximately 'Skagen Channel'. The Danish town of Skagen (The Skaw) lies at the northern tip of the Danish mainland. Rak means 'straight waterway' (compare the Damrak in Amsterdam); it is cognate with 'reach'. The ultimate source of this syllable is the Proto-Indo-European root *reg-, 'straight'. Rak means 'straight' in both modern Norwegian and Swedish. There is no evidence to suggest a connection with the modern Danish word rak (meaning rabble or riff-raff). [See Kattegat for its etymology, in which gat means gate or hole.]
The Skagerrak is 240 km (150 mi) long and between 80 and 140 km (50 and 87 mi) wide. It deepens toward the Norwegian coast, reaching over 700 metres at the Norwegian Trench. Some ports along the Skagerrak are Oslo and Kristiansand in Norway and Uddevalla and Strömstad in Sweden.
The Skagerrak has a salinity of 30 practical salinity units. The area available to biomass is about 3,600 km2 (1,400 sq mi), including a wide variety of habitats from the sandbanks to Sweden and Denmark to the deeps of the Norwegian trench.
In both the world wars, the Skagerrak was strategically very important for Germany. The biggest sea battle of World War I, the Battle of Jutland, also known as the Battle of the Skagerrak, took place there May 31 to June 1, 1916. The importance of controlling this waterway, the only sea access to the Baltic, was the motivation for the German invasion of Denmark and Norway during World War II. These naval engagements have contributed to the large number of shipwrecks in the area.
The Skagerrak is habitat for approximately 2000 marine species, many of them adapted to its waters. For example, a variety of Atlantic cod called the Skagerrak cod spawns off the Norwegian coast. The eggs are buoyant and the hatchlings feed on zooplankton. Juveniles sink to the bottom where they have a shorter maturity cycle (2 years). They do not migrate but remain local to Norwegian fjords.
The variety of habitats and the large volume of plankton on the surface support prolific marine life. Energy moves from the top to the bottom according to Vinogradov's ladder of migrations; that is, some species are benthic and others pelagic, but there are graded marine layers within which species move vertically for short distances. In addition, some species are benthopelagic, moving between surface and bottom. The benthic species include Coryphaenoides rupestris, Argentina silus, Etmopterus spinax, Chimaera monstrosa and Glyptocephalus cynoglossus. On the top are Clupea harengus, Scomber scombrus, Sprattus sprattus. Some species that move between are Pandalus borealis, Sabinea sarsi, Etmopterus spinax.
- Nudansk Ordbog (1993), 15th edition, 2nd reprint, Copenhagen: Politikens Forlag, entry Skagerrak.
- Den Store Danske Encyklopædi (2004), CD-ROM edition, Copenhagen: Gyldendal, entry Skagerrak.
- "Limits of Oceans and Seas, 3rd edition" (PDF). International Hydrographic Organization. 1953. Retrieved 6 February 2010.
Media related to Skagerrak at Wikimedia Commons
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Skagerrack.|