Where is the Gulf of Aden?

View of the Gulf of Aden from Aden, Yemen.

The Gulf of Aden, previously known as Berbera Gulf, is a large bay that forms a sea-link between the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea. It is situated between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. It is part of the busy Suez Canal shipping-route between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea that is crossed by over 21,000 ships annually. The Gulf of Aden has been a part of the global trade since antiquity when the Romans, Greeks, and Arabs used it to sail to Asia.


The Gulf of Aden has a maximum depth of about 8,900ft and an average depth of over 1,600ft. The gulf is surrounded by Djibouti, Somalia, Yemen, Guardaful Channel, and the Arabian Sea. The gulf is linked to the Indian Ocean by the Guardaful Channel and to the Red Sea by the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait.


The temperature of this gulf varies between 15°C to 28°C depending on the monsoon winds and the season. The salinity of this gulf at 33ft varies from 35.3 parts per thousand on the eastern coast of Somalia to 37.3 parts per thousand at the middle of the gulf. The gulf has a unique water structure with the water flowing into the Red Sea. The flow-pattern of this gulf is complicated by eddies, the monsoon wind, and its top layer that has high salinity.


The Gulf of Aden is a crucial shipping-waterway, particularly for the Persian Gulf oil. Over 11% of the global seaborne petroleum is shipped through the Gulf of Aden to various regional refineries or the Suez Canal. Some of the main port along this gulf includes Shokra, Aden, Mukalla, Bir Ali, and Balhaf in Yemen; Las Khorey, Maydh, Berbera, and Zeila in Somalia; and Djibouti City in Djibouti among others. During ancient times, the gulf was an international trading region between Han China and Classical India to the east and Rome and Ptolemaic Egypt in the west. After the Egyptians discovered the benefits of the monsoon and began trading with India directly, numerous kingdoms collapsed, resulting in the growth of piracy in the region. The Gulf of Aden evolved into an area of pirate activities during the 2000s. The pirate activities declined by 2013 after active international navy patrols were introduced in the region. Currently, India sends $60 billion in export while receiving $50 billion in imports through the Gulf of Aden; therefore, they have a warship escort in this region to protect their trade.


The Gulf of Aden is home to a variety of invertebrates, seabirds, coral, and fish. Dugongs, dolphins, and whales were quite common in the past in the region, but commercial hunts reduced their population. The critically endangered humpback whale can be found in the Gulf of Aden. Some of the whales which thrive in the bay include toothed whales, blue whales, and the Bryde’s whales. Although the bay is relatively pollution-free, numerous environmentalists argue that the lack of pollution controlling programs in the gulf can jeopardize its ecosphere.


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