February 5, 2017
By Damond Benningfield


The Great Australian Bight, along the southern coast of the continent. Credit: Wikipedia/public domain

If you look at a map of Australia, it looks like a giant has taken a bite out of its southern flank. A gentle indentation curves across almost the entire continent. And coincidentally enough, it’s known as the Great Australian Bight. In this case, though, “bight” is spelled B-I-G-H-T. The name comes from a nautical term for a curved section of rope or string. Similar “bights” are found around the world, including the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States.

A bight is defined as a long, shallow bend or indentation in the coastline. It’s not as dramatic as a bay, so it often doesn’t look like a special feature — just the gentle curve of the coastline itself.

There are two major bights in the United States. One is the Southern California Bight. It stretches from well north of Los Angeles, down past San Diego — about 400 miles in all. It’s home to almost 500 species of fish, plus hundreds of species of mammals, shellfish, sea birds, and other creatures.

On the east coast, there’s the New York Bight. It stretches from the New Jersey coast to the western tip of Long Island. Its bottom is shallow, so it acts as a sort of funnel for storm-driven water, bringing major storm surges.

The biggest bight in the world is the one in Australia. Like the one in California, it’s home to an amazing diversity of marine life, including right whales, sea lions, and great white sharks. In fact, much of the bight is a marine reserve — protecting the “bite” out of the Australian coastline.