Shallowest sea

The Sea of Azov, between Ukraine and Russia, is never more than fourteen metres deep. Parts of the sea are shallow enough to wade across.

Sea of Azov
AlixSaz, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Black Sea is wedged between Romania and Bulgaria (in the west), Georgia (in the east), Turkey (in the south), and Russia and Ukraine (in the north). Its deepest point is more than two kilometres down. The northernmost part of the Black Sea is pinched off by a narrow strait, and the waters on the other side are called the Sea of Azov.

This sea is a strange one. The two countries on its shores – Russia and Ukraine – both treat it as international waters. It’s full of fish and sturgeon farms, bordered by ports and seaside resorts… but it never gets more than a paltry fourteen metres deep. The Sea of Azov is the shallowest sea in the world.

So, why’s it so shallow? The short answer is this: silt. Twenty rivers flow into the sea, but the only outflow is through that strait to the Black Sea. The Sea of Azov is crisscrossed with sandbanks and spits. The longest spit in the world is here (the Arabat Arrow, 112km from end to end). On average, the sea is just seven metres deep.

That long spit, by the way, creates a series of lagoons known as the Sivash. Five metres of silt topped by one metre of water, it’s mucky and murky and every summer it stinks. Hence the Sivash’s alternative name, the Rotten Sea. You could wade across this part of the sea if you were determined enough.

Russian soldiers are sometimes determined enough. In 1920, Red Army soldiers waded across the Sivash (surprise!) to end the southern front of the Russian Civil War. Soviet troops crossed the Sivash in 1942.

Soviet troops crossing the Sivash
V. Ivanov, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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