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Google Earth Plug-in: Mosambique Channel Islands (OL)

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The Mozambique Channel, located between Madagascar on the east and Mozambique on the west, forms an important shipping route round the southern tip of Africa in to the Indian Ocean. The channel has a length of around 1,600 km and width of between 400 and 1,000 km, reaching depths of up to 3,000 m. The channel plays host to important ocean currents such as the Agulhas and Mozambique Current as well as being a breeding ground for severe tropical cyclones.

The Mozambique Channel was formed when Madagascar began its separation from continental Africa during the break-up of the super-continent of Gondwanaland some 165 million years ago. In the mid-Eocene to the early Miocene the channel may have been spanned by a land bridge allowing terrestrial mammals to move between Madagascar and the mainland.

Further in to the channel occur a trio of widely separated coral reefs and islands that form overseas possessions of France: Bassas da India, Juan de Nova and Île Europa. These islands are strategically important — their ownership is disputed between France and Madagascar. All are small, flat and uninhabited. The islets of Europa and Juan de Nova are important habitats for migrating landbirds and breeding seabirds.

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