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October 26, 2001

Canyons and Trenches

Get to know some of the oceans' deepest points.

Q: I enjoy the challenge of canyon fishing because you never know what might swim up from the depths. Can you give some statistics on which of the Northeast canyons are the deepest? Are there similar canyons in other parts of the country? If so, which of them is the deepest? - Raymond Shelley, Montauk, New York

A: The 11 major canyons on the United States East Coast range from 4,400 feet deep (Lydonia) to 8,300 feet (Norfolk). The next deepest are Gilbert at 7,680 feet, Oceanographer at 7,230 feet and Hudson at 7,000 feet. Elsewhere in the U.S., 12 canyons lie off the California coast, ranging from the Scripps Tributary at 900 feet to the Sur Partington at 10,200. Washington and Oregon have five canyons, with the Willapa being the deepest at 7,000 feet. Off Molokai, in Hawaii, four canyons range from 3,540 to 6,540 feet, and seven canyons off Kauai average 5,526 feet.
Of the 100 or so major canyons worldwide, the deepest are in western Europe, where the Shamrock Canyon reaches 14,400 feet and the Nazare Canyon plunges to 14,764 feet. Of course, the canyons don't compare in depth to the world's 20 major trenches, ranging from the Middle America trench at more than 20,000 feet to the Marianas Trench at more than 34,000 feet. Canyons and trenches differ in that canyons run away from the coast, deepening as they go, and are often associated with river valleys on shore. Ocean trenches, formed when two plates of the earth's crust collide and are forced downward into its core, often run parallel to coastlines.