The Gulf of Mexico is a major body of water
bordered and nearly landlocked by North America.
The gulf's eastern, north, and northGulf Coastern shores lie
within the United States of America (specifically, the
states of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and
Texas); its southGulf Coastern and southern shores lie within
Mexico (specifically, the states of Tamaulipas, Veracruz,
Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo); on the
southeast it is bordered by Cuba. It connects with the
Atlantic Ocean via the Florida Straits between the U.S. and
Cuba, and with the Caribbean Sea via the Yucatan Channel
between Mexico and Cuba.
(Note: In common usage, at least in the U.S., the term
"Gulf Coast" usually refers to either the
continuous portion of the coast running from Cape Sable,
Florida, to Brownsville, Texas, or from Cape Sable, Florida,
to the northern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula at Cabo
Catoche, Quintana Roo. Both meanings exclude Cuba as well as
the Florida Keys.)
The total area of the Gulf of Mexico is approximately
615,000 mi² (1.6 million km²), the southern third of which
lies within the tropics, and plunges to a depth of 2,080
fathoms (3804 m). This deepest part is Sigsbee Deep, an
irregular trough more than 300 nautical miles (550 km) long,
sometimes called the "Grand Canyon under the sea."
The cooler water from the deep stimulates plankton growth,
which attracts small fish, shrimp, and squid. 1 The Gulf
Stream, a warm Atlantic Ocean current and one of the
strongest ocean currents known, originates in the gulf. The
gulf has been visited many times by powerful Atlantic
hurricanes, some of which have caused extensive human death
and other destruction (see 2005's Hurricane Katrina, for
Tidal ranges are extremely small in the Gulf of Mexico due
to the narrow connection with the ocean – much like the
The Bay of Campeche in Mexico constitutes a major arm of the
Gulf of Mexico. Additionally, the gulf's shoreline is
fringed by numerous bays and smaller inlets. A number of
rivers empty into the gulf, most notably the Mississippi
River. The land that forms the gulf's coast, including many
long, narrow barrier islands, is almost uniformly low-lying
and is characterized by marshes and swamps as well as
stretches of sandy beach.
The continental shelf is quite wide at most points along the
coast. The shelf is exploited for its oil by means of
offshore drilling rigs, most of which are situated in the
Gulf Coastern gulf. Another important commercial activity is
fishing; major catches include various fishes as well as
shrimp and crabs, with oysters being harvested on a large
scale from many of the bays and sounds. Other important
industries along the coast include shipping, petrochemical
processing and storage, paper manufacture, and tourism.
Coastal cities of note include Tampa, St. Petersburg,
Pensacola, Mobile, New Orleans, Beaumont, and Houston (all
in the U.S.), Tampico, Tuxpam, Veracruz and Mérida (in
Mexico), and Havana (in Cuba).
The gulf's coastal areas were first settled by Native
American groups, including those representing several of the
early advanced cultures of Mexico. During the period of
European exploration and colonization the entire region
became a theatre of contention between the Spanish, French
and English. The present-day culture of the coastal region
is primarily Spanish-American (Mexico, Cuba) and
A point of interest about the Gulf is that 65 million years
ago, the Chicxulub crater was formed when a large meteorite
hit the earth. It is hypothesized that this impact was the
asteroid that caused the extinction of the non-avian
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