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Unit 1

This unit will describe the land, physical features, and climate of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, and the interaction between these natural features and people who live in the country and will cover the following items:

· the country’s name and area

· physical geography

· the four regions of the UK

· major lakes and river systems

· demography of the UK

· cities of the UK

· climate and biodiversity

The full name of the country is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Although most people just refer to it as the United Kingdom or the UK. Great Britain is very often, but incorrectly, used as a synonym for the sovereign state properly known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland or the UK for short. If you look at the full name of the UK you will see that the UK includes Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Great Britain (=GB for short) is a political term which describes the combination of England, Scotland, and Wales, the three nations which together include all the land on the island. It is also a geographical term referring to the island on which the greater parts of England, Wales and Scotland are situated.

Sometimes people use the shorten name Britain instead of Great Britain, to mean the same thing, but really Britain only refers to England and Wales.

The name Britain goes back to Roman times when they called England and Wales "Britannia" (or "Britannia Major", to distinguish from "Britannia Minor", i.e. Brittany in France). The Roman province of Britannia only covered the areas of modern England and Wales. The area of modern Scotland was never finally conquered.

British Isles means GB plus all the other islands including Ireland (=Republic of Ireland).

Physical geography:The United Kingdom is situated on an archipelago known as the British Isles. The British Isles consist of two large islands, Great Britain and Ireland, and a great number of surrounding island groups of the Hebrides, the Shetlands, the Orkneys, the Isle of Man and the Isle of Wight. Their total area is over 314 000 sq. km. The United Kingdom is located off the northern coast of France, and west of Sweden and Denmark, between the North Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean.

With an area of 243,610 sq km (94,058 square miles) the United Kingdom itself is not quite half the size of Spain, or slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Oregon. Great Britain has a coastline of 7,723 miles (12,429 m).

The North Channel, the Irish Sea, the St George's Channel and the Celtic Sea separate the island of Great Britain from the island of Ireland to its west. Northern Ireland occupies one third of the island of Ireland. It borders on the Irish Republic in the south. The western coast of Great Britain is washed by the Atlantic Ocean and the Irish Sea.

The British Isles are washed by the North Sea and the English Channel, which narrows to 34 kilometers (21 mi) at the Straits of Dover. It stretches over about ten degrees of latitude on its longer, north-south axis, and occupies an area of 209,331 km² (80,823 sq mi), excluding all the smaller surrounding islands of the archipelago. The island is physically connected with continental Europe via the Channel Tunnel, the longest undersea rail tunnel in the world which was completed in 1993.

The island of Great Britain consists of three main parts: England (the southern and middle part of the island), Wales (a mountainous peninsula in the West) and Scotland (the northern part of the island).Great Britain is the ninth largest island in the world and the largest in Europe.

Geographically, the island is marked by low, rolling countryside in the east and south, while hills and mountains predominate in the western and northern regions. It is surrounded by over 1,000 smaller islands and islets. The greatest distance between two points is 968 km (601.5 miles) (between Land's End, Cornwall and John O'Groats, Caithness), or 1,349 km (838 miles) using the national road network.

Interesting to know: The English Channel is thought to have been created between 450,000 and 180,000 years ago by two catastrophic glacial lake outburst floods caused by the breaching of the Weald-Artois Anticline, a ridge which held back a large proglacial lake, now submerged under the North Sea.

Around 10,000 years ago, during the Devensian glaciation with its lower sea level, Great Britain was not an island, but an upland region of continental northwestern Europe, lying partially underneath the Eurasian ice sheet. The sea level was about 120 meters (390 ft) lower than today, and the bed of the North Sea was dry and acted as a land bridge, now known as Doggerland, to the Continent. It is generally thought that as sea levels gradually rose after the end of the last glacial period of the current ice age, Doggerland became submerged beneath the North Sea, cutting off what was previously the British peninsula from the European mainland by around 6500 BC.

The official language in the UK is English, recognized regional languages are Scottish, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Irish, and Cornish.

Border Countries: Ireland, since 1994 the Channel Tunnel beneath the English Channel links the UK with France. Britain shares maritime borders with Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, and the Faroe Islands (Denmark), Highland Boundary Fault from the Scottish Lowlands.

Great Britain is not very rich in mineral resources; it has some deposits of coal and iron ore and vast deposits of oil and gas that were discovered in the North Sea.

Great Britain is home to the United Kingdom (the UK) which is made up of four different regions that are not independent nations. These regions are England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Next come some facts about the UK's four regions.

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