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A strait is a narrow, channel of water that connects two larger navigable bodies of water. It most commonly means a channel of water that is between two land masses, but it may also mean a navigable channel through a body of water that is not navigable, for example because it is too shallow, or because it contains an unnavigable reef or archipelago. The terms strait, channel, passage, sound and firth can be synonymous, but each is sometimes used with a slight difference of meaning. Many straits are economically important. Straits can lie on important shipping routes, and wars have been fought for control of these straits. Many artificial channels, called canals, have been constructed to connect two bodies of water over land.
Although rivers and canals often form a bridge between two large lakes or a lake and a sea, they are not usually referred to as straits. Straits are typically much larger, wider structures that do not have water running in a single direction, and normally connect two seas.
Well-known straits in the world are:
- Bosporus and the Dardanelles, which connect the Mediterranean and the Black Sea
- Strait of Dover, between England and France, which connects the North Sea with the English Channel
- Strait of Gibraltar, the only natural passage between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea
- Bering Strait between Alaska and Siberia, which connects the Pacific and Arctic Oceans
- Strait of Magellan, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans north of Tierra del Fuego
- Palk strait, between India and Sri Lanka, the location of Ram Sethu and rich in natural resources
- Strait of Hormuz connecting the Persian Gulf and the Oman Sea, through which Persian Gulf petroleum is shipped to the world
- Strait of Malacca, which is between Peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra, and connects the Indian Ocean with the South China Sea. (It is one of the highest-volume shipping lanes in the world.)
- Bass Strait, which is between mainland Australia and Tasmania, and connects the Indian Ocean with the Pacific Ocean.
- Torres Strait which is between Australia and New Guinea.