Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Sea of Azoff

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AZOFF, The Sea of, an inland sea of Southern Europe, communicating with the Black Sea by the Strait of Yenikale, the ancient Bosphorus Cimmerius. To the Romans it was known as the Palus Mœotis, from the name of the neighbouring people, who called it in their native language Temarenda, or Mother of Waters. Possibly to account for the outward current into the Black Sea, it was long supposed to possess direct communication with the Northern Ocean, and, when it was discovered that there was no visible channel, recourse was had to a “ secret sluice ;” there being, it was thought, but a comparatively narrow isthmus to be crossed. In some prehistoric time, according to Pallas and Murchison, a connection with the Caspian Sea seems to have existed ; but no great change has taken place in regard to the character or relations of the Sea of Azoff since our earliest records. It lies between 45° 20′ and 47° 18′ N. lat., and between 35° and 39° E. long., its length from S.W. to N.E. being about 235 miles, and its greatest breadth 110. It is for the most part comparatively shallow ; the deepest portion forming as it were a prolongation of the bed of the Don, its largest and, indeed, its only very important tributary. Near the mouth of that river the depth varies from 3 to 10 feet, and the greatest depth does not exceed 44 feet. Fierce and continuous winds from the E. prevail during July and August, and in the later part of the year those from the N.E. and S.E. are not unusual. A great variety of currents are thus produced, and the relative depths of the different parts of the sea are greatly modified. From December to March the whole surface is generally frozen. The water is for the most part comparatively fresh, but differs considerably in this respect according to locality and current. Fish are so abundant that the Turks use the name Balük-Denis, or Fish Sea. To the W., separated from the main basin by the long, narrow spit of Arabat, lies the remarkable series of lagunes and marshes known as the Sivash, or Putrid Sea. Here the water is intensely salt, and at the same time swarms with life. The Sea of Azoff is of great importance to Russian commerce, and a number of flourishing cities have grown up along its shores. Of these the most important are Taganrog, Berdiansk, Mariupol, and Yenikale. Unfortunately, there is a lack of safe and commodious harbours and roads.