What Is A Sound In Geography?

Howe Sound, in British Columbia, Canada, is characterized by the high mountains around its border.
Howe Sound, in British Columbia, Canada, is characterized by the high mountains around its border.

A sound is a marine geographic formation, which is located along coastlines around the world. It is characterized as an inlet of seawater that diverts from the main ocean and may take one of two forms. In the first form, the sound is formed by seawater that moves inland by way of a river valley, creating a type of harbor that is surrounded by tall hills and mountains. In the second form, the seawater may completely separate an area of land from a larger land mass, forming an island near the shore. In many cases, a sound is filled with several islands. The difference between these types of sounds is the number of entrances.

The term sound is often used interchangeably with other geographic terms, such as a bay or fjord. As previously mentioned, a sound may be formed when a river valley is flooded by seawater. It may also occur as the result of glacial erosion. The mountain sides reach far below the surface of the water. When the sound is located inland, the point further away from the ocean is often deeper than the area located closer to the open water.

Sounds Around The World

Sounds are located in many coastal countries around the world, although some countries have more than others. Below is a closer look at the countries with the largest number of sounds.

United States

The US is home to approximately 39 sounds, a large number of which are in North Carolina. One of the largest sounds in this state is the Albemarle Sound, which is located in the northern region of the coast. It is formed where the Roanoke and Chowan Rivers join together. The water within the sound is prevented from reaching the Atlantic Ocean by the Currituck Banks. This long, thin strip of land extends further north, creating the Currituck Sound, and further south, creating the Pamlico Sound.

Part of the water within the Albemarle Sound is protected as a herring management area, which is home to the blueback herring and the alewife. The majority of the fisheries of North Carolina are located in this sound, making it an important contributor to the state’s economy. The entire area makes up part of the Outer Banks area, which is a system of barrier islands that stretches for approximately 200 miles between North Carolina and Virginia.


Canada is home to around 29 sounds, many of which are located off the coast of the British Columbia province in the northwest. Howe Sound, which is located to the northwest of Vancouver, is one of these. It is characterized by its triangular shape and high mountains around its border. Additionally, this sound begins where the Strait of Georgia ends and ends at the city of Squamish in British Columbia. It runs for a length of just over 26 miles. The entire area has been of particular importance to the Shishalh and Squamish indigenous peoples throughout history.

Howe Sound contains several islands, the largest of which is known as Gambier Island. This island covers an area of 17,049 acres and is a popular destination for tourists in the area. Bowen Island has the largest number of permanent residents of any of the islands here, with a population size of around 3,680. During the summer, the population increases as many people stay here for vacation.

New Zealand

New Zealand has approximately 10 sounds. Of these, the largest is known as the Marlborough Sound. It is bordered to the south by South Island, to the west by Tasman Bay, and to the east by Cloudy Bay. Its location makes it difficult to access easily, which has resulted in a nearly non-existent human population. Prior to the colonial era, however, this area was home to Maori indigenous peoples. Today, the largest town bordering this sound is Picton, a port city that also sits at the beginning of the Queen Charlotte Sound.

The Marlborough Sound covers an estimated 1,200 square miles. Within this area are more than 50 protected natural reserves, many of which incorporate islands and islets. These reserves are home to many species, including the New Zealand king shag bird. This species is endemic to New Zealand and listed by the IUCN as vulnerable. The sound also supports a large fishing industry, which relies on species such as crabs and salmon. This industry and these species have been threatened in recent years by the use of ships and other water vessels.


Australia has at least 9 named sounds within its territory, nearly all of which are located off the coast of Western Australia. Camden Sound is located off the coast of the Kimberley region in the state of Western Australia, where it is surrounded by archipelago and reef formations. This sound is interesting because it hosts the largest breeding humpback whale population in the world, which is estimated at around 22,000 individuals. The humpback whales use this sound for breeding and to raise their young for the first several months, until leaving for colder waters elsewhere.

Camden Sound is not connected to the rest of the country by a roadway. The first European explorer in this area was Captain Phillip Parker King, who landed here in August of 1821. This sound is home to several islands, including: Champagny, Haywood, Rice Rocks, Bumpus, August, and Byam Martin. In 2009, this sound was designated as a marine park that covers 2,727 square miles. Its designation protects both the humpback whale population here as well as the large coral reef here, known as Montgomery Reef.


The coastline of Chile is also noted for its abundance of sound formations. Some of these include the: Darwin, Skyring, Otway, Almirantazgo, Última Esperanza, and Reloncaví. The Darwin Sound is named after Charles Darwin. This honor was bestowed on him after he helped save the HMS Beagle and its crew from disaster at sea. The Darwin Sound is connected to mainland Chile by the Beagle Channel, which crosses the territory known as Tierra del Fuego and connects the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. This waterway allows marine vessels to avoid Cape Horn at the tip of South America, which is known for its dangerous waters.


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