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Macclesfield Bank is an elongated sunken atoll of underwater reefs and shoals in the South China Sea. It lies east of the Paracel Islands, southwest of the Pratas Islands and north of the Spratly Islands. Its length exceeds 130 km (81 mi) southwest-northeast, with a maximal width of more than 70 km (43 mi). With an ocean area of 6,448 km2 (2,490 sq mi) within the outer rim of the reef,[3] although completely submerged without any emergent cays or islets, it is one of the largest atolls of the world.[4] The Macclesfield Bank is part of what China calls the Zhongsha Islands, which includes a number of geographically separate submarine features, and also refers to a county-level administrative division.

Macclesfield Bank
Disputed islands
Other names: Middle Sand Islands[1]
Macclesfield Bank
LocationSouth China Sea
Coordinates16°00′N 114°30′E / 16.000°N 114.500°E / 16.000; 114.500 (South China Sea Islands center)Coordinates: 16°00′N 114°30′E / 16.000°N 114.500°E / 16.000; 114.500 (South China Sea Islands center)
Total islands0
Major islandsNone
Area6,448 square kilometres (2,490 sq mi) total, 0 km² land surface/islets
LengthAbout 130 kilometres (81 mi)
WidthAbout 70 kilometres (43 mi)
Highest point
  • Unnamed point below sea level
  • −9.2 metres (−5.0 fathoms)
Administered by
People's Republic of China
Prefecture-level city

Claimed by
Republic of China (Taiwan)
1920 nautical chart - depths in fathoms
Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap 
Download coordinates as: KML · GPX


Macclesfield banks were named after the British naval ship, HMS Macclesfield, which ran aground in the vicinity of these shoals in 1804.[5][6][7]


The broken coral reef rim of Macclesfield Bank, with a width of up to 8 km (5 mi), has depths of 11.8 m (39 ft) at Pygmy Shoal on the northeast end of the bank and depths of 11.6 to 18 m (59 ft) elsewhere. Within the lagoon, Walker Shoal marks the least known depth of 9.2 metres (30 ft). In general, the central lagoon is very deep, with depths up to 100 metres (330 ft).[3]

The elongated atoll consists of the following shoals, clockwise starting in the northeast, and at the end the six named shoals in the lagoon:

Coordinates least
Pigmy (Pygmy) Shoal Biwei Ansha 比微暗沙 16°13′N 114°44′E / 16.217°N 114.733°E / 16.217; 114.733 (Pigmy Shoal) 7
Engeria (Egeria) Bank Yinji Tan 隱磯灘 16°03′N 114°56′E / 16.050°N 114.933°E / 16.050; 114.933 (Engeria Bank) 10
Howard Shoal Wuyong Ansha 武勇暗沙 15°52′N 114°47′E / 15.867°N 114.783°E / 15.867; 114.783 (Howard Shoal) 10
Learmonth Shoal Jimeng Ansha 濟猛暗沙 15°42′N 114°41′E / 15.700°N 114.683°E / 15.700; 114.683 (Learmonth Shoal) 9
Plover Shoal Haijiu Ansha 海鳩暗沙 15°36′N 114°28′E / 15.600°N 114.467°E / 15.600; 114.467 (Plover Shoal) 10
Addington Patch Anding Lianjiao 安定連礁 15°37′N 114°24′E / 15.617°N 114.400°E / 15.617; 114.400 (Addington Patch) 10
Smith Shoal Meixi Ansha 美溪暗沙 15°27′N 114°12′E / 15.450°N 114.200°E / 15.450; 114.200 (Smith Shoal) 9
Bassett Shoal Bude Ansha 布德暗沙 15°27′N 114°10′E / 15.450°N 114.167°E / 15.450; 114.167 (Bassett Shoal) 9
Balfour Shoal Bofu Ansha 波洑暗沙 or 伏洑暗沙 15°27′N 114°00′E / 15.450°N 114.000°E / 15.450; 114.000 (Balfour Shoal) 8
Parry Shoal Paibo Ansha 排波暗沙 15°29′N 113°51′E / 15.483°N 113.850°E / 15.483; 113.850 (Parry Shoal) 8
Cawston Shoal Guodian Ansha 果淀暗沙 15°32′N 113°46′E / 15.533°N 113.767°E / 15.533; 113.767 (Cawston Shoal) 10
Penguin Bank Paihong Tan 排洪灘 15°38′N 113°43′E / 15.633°N 113.717°E / 15.633; 113.717 (Penguin Bank) 9
Tancred Shoal Taojing Ansha 濤靜暗沙 15°41′N 113°54′E / 15.683°N 113.900°E / 15.683; 113.900 (Tanered Shoal) 10
Combe Shoal Kongpai Ansha 控湃暗沙 15°48′N 113°54′E / 15.800°N 113.900°E / 15.800; 113.900 (Combe Shoal) 7
Cathy (Cathay) Shoal Huaxia Ansha 華夏暗沙 15°54′N 113°58′E / 15.900°N 113.967°E / 15.900; 113.967 (Cathy Shoal) 7
Siamese Shoal Simen Ansha 西門暗沙 15°58′N 114°03′E / 15.967°N 114.050°E / 15.967; 114.050 (Siamese Shoal) 9
Bankok Shoal Bengu Ansha 本固暗沙 16°00′N 114°06′E / 16.000°N 114.100°E / 16.000; 114.100 (Bankok Shoal) 7
Magpie Shoal Meibin Ansha 美濱暗沙 16°03′N 114°13′E / 16.050°N 114.217°E / 16.050; 114.217 (Magpie Shoal) 8
Carpenter Shoal Luban Ansha 魯班暗沙 16°04′N 114°18′E / 16.067°N 114.300°E / 16.067; 114.300 (Carpenter Shoal) 8
Oliver Shoal Zhongbei Ansha 中北暗沙 16°07′N 114°24′E / 16.117°N 114.400°E / 16.117; 114.400 (Oliver Shoal) 7
Hardy Patches1 Shitang Lianjiao 石塘連礁 16°02′N 114°46′E / 16.033°N 114.767°E / 16.033; 114.767 (Hardy Patches) 8
Hand Shoal1 Zhizhang Ansha 指掌暗沙 16°00′N 114°39′E / 16.000°N 114.650°E / 16.000; 114.650 (Hand Shoal) 9
Margesson Shoal1 Nanfei Ansha 南扉暗沙 15°55′N 114°38′E / 15.917°N 114.633°E / 15.917; 114.633 (Margesson Shoal) 8
Walker Shoal1 Manbu Ansha 漫步暗沙 15°55′N 114°29′E / 15.917°N 114.483°E / 15.917; 114.483 (Walker Shoal) 5
Phillip's Shoal1 Lexi Ansha 樂西暗沙 15°52′N 114°25′E / 15.867°N 114.417°E / 15.867; 114.417 (Phillip's Shoal) 9
Payne Shoal1 Pingnan Ansha 屏南暗沙 15°52′N 114°34′E / 15.867°N 114.567°E / 15.867; 114.567 (Payne Shoal) 8

1 inside lagoon

Territorial claimsEdit

Macclesfield Bank is claimed, in whole or in part, by China[8] and Taiwan (Republic of China).[9][10]

Some sources[10][11] state that the Philippines claims this underwater feature. However, Jose Zaide, a Filipino diplomat of ambassadorial rank, has written that the Philippines does not claim the Macclesfield Bank.[12] Moreover, Macclesfield Bank is not within UNCLOS 200 or Philippines EEZ.[13]

As the bank is entirely underwater, some scholars have raised questions regarding the legality of territorial claims upon it with regards to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).[14][15][16][17] However, the Philippines filed claim for another underwater feature, the Benham Plateau, in 2008 in compliance with the requirements of UNCLOS and UN officially approved the claim in April 2012.[18][19][20][21]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Jones, Gareth Wyn (2002). "Provinces". In Boland-Crewe, Tara; Lea, David (eds.). The Territories of the People's Republic of China. London: Europa Publications. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-203-40311-2.
  2. ^ Ministry of Civil Affairs of the People's Republic of China (21 June 2012). 民政部关于国务院批准设立地级三沙市的公告 [Ministry of Civil Affairs Announcement about the State Council Approval of the Establishment of the Prefecture-level City of Sansha] (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 25 June 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  3. ^ a b List of data for various geographic features (2001), The Geological Society of America.
  4. ^ "Philippines protests China's moving in on Macclesfield Bank". Philippine Daily Inquirer. July 6, 2012.
  5. ^ "Timeline". History of the Spratlys. Archived from the original on 6 January 2008. Retrieved 21 March 2014. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  6. ^ Chemillier-Gendreau, Monique (2000). Sovereignty Over the Paracel and Spratly Islands. Kluwer Law International. ISBN 9041113819.
  7. ^ China Sea pilot, Volume 1 (8th Edition). Taunton: UKHO - United Kingdom Hydrographic Office. 2010.
  8. ^ "Vietnam Law on Contested Islands Draws China's Ire". The New York Times. June 21, 2012. Retrieved June 28, 2012.
  9. ^ "Taiwan renews sovereignty claim over South China Sea islands". Focus Taiwan. May 5, 2012. Retrieved June 28, 2012.
  10. ^ a b "Limits in the Seas - No. 127 Taiwan's Maritime Claims" (PDF). United States Department of State. November 15, 2005. Retrieved July 1, 2012.
  11. ^ "Philippines protests China's moving in on Macclesfield Bank". July 6, 2012. Retrieved July 6, 2012.
  12. ^ Zaide, Jose (July 10, 2012). "Saan Siya?". Manila Bulletin. Archived from the original on January 13, 2013. Retrieved 31 October 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  13. ^ "Allocation of South China Sea features".
  14. ^ Poling, Gregory (2012-07-05). "Time to End Strategic Ambiguity in the South China Sea". Center for Strategic and International Studies. Retrieved 2012-07-21.
  15. ^ Seoung-Yong Hong; Jon M. Van Dyke (2009). Maritime Boundary Disputes, Settlement Processes, and the Law of the Sea (Publications on Ocean Development). Brill. p. 149.
  16. ^ Chi-kin Lo (1989). China's Policy Towards Territorial Disputes: The Case of the South China Sea Islands. Routledge. p. 25.
  17. ^ Clive Ralph Symmons (1995). Some Problems Relating to the Definition of "insular Formations" in International Law: Islands and Low-tide Elevations. International Boundaries Research Unit. p. 12. ISBN 9781897643105.
  18. ^ "UN approves PH territorial claim to Benham Rise". Retrieved April 28, 2012.
  19. ^ UN to decide on Phl claim on 13-M hectare Benham Rise, August 16, 2011, Philippine Star.
  20. ^ UN approves PH territorial claim to Benham Rise, April 28, 2012, Philippine Daily Inquirer.
  21. ^ "DOE to assess resource potential of Benham Rise". The Philippine Star. June 9, 2014.

External linksEdit