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Hurd's Deep (or Hurd Deep) is a deep underwater valley in the English Channel, northwest of the Channel Islands. From marine navigational charts, the maximum depth is 180 m (590 ft; 98 fathoms), and lies to the north of the isle of Alderney. It is most probable that it was named after Captain Thomas Hurd RN (1747–1823), by Admiral Martin White.


Late Quaternary originEdit

The underwater valley system found on the floor of the eastern English Channel formed from a catastrophic flood which was caused by a breaching of a rock dam at the Strait of Dover, which released a huge proglacial lake in the southern North Sea basin. The flood scoured the former river systems to form the Hurd Deep in late Quaternary times.[1][2]

A Pleistocene glacial refugiumEdit

During the ice ages, when the sea level dropped, most of the English Channel was dry land. Hurd's Deep likely remained as a sea. During the Pleistocene it likely was a glacial refugium.[3]



Following the First World War, Hurd's Deep was used by the British Government as a dumping ground for both chemical and conventional munitions. SMS Baden was scuttled there in 1921. Following the Second World War, it was used to dump military equipment, munitions and weaponry left behind by the ousted German invaders of the Channel Islands. Routine dumping of British munitions carried on until 1974.[citation needed]

Between 1946 and 1973 the area was also used for the dumping of low and intermediate level radioactive wastes. A total of some 28,500 barrels of waste – including plutonium, which has a half-life of 24,100 years – were disposed of into the Deep during this period. [4][5]


The British submarine HMS Affray sank in Hurd's Deep in 1951 with the loss of 75 lives.[6]


  1. ^ Smith, Alec J. (1985). "A catastrophic origin for the palaeovalley system of the eastern English Channel". Marine Geology. 64 (1–2): 65–75. doi:10.1016/0025-3227(85)90160-4. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  2. ^ Gupta, Sanjeev; Collier, Jenny S.; Palmer-Felgate, Andy; Potter, Graeme (2007). "Catastrophic flooding origin of shelf valley systems in the English Channel". Nature. 448 (7151): 342–345. doi:10.1038/nature06018. PMID 17637667. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  3. ^ Provan, Jim; Bennett, K.D. (2008). "Phylogeographic insights into cryptic glacial refugia". Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 23 (10): 564–571. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2008.06.010.
  4. ^ Nuclear dumping leak sparks concern – BBC, 17 January 2002
  5. ^ "Thousands of radioactive waste barrels rusting". Greenpeace. 19 June 2000. Archived from the original on 28 June 2009.
  6. ^ 1951: Fears for crew of lost British submarine

Coordinates: 49°30′N 3°34′W / 49.500°N 3.567°W / 49.500; -3.567