3 San Pedro Bay (California)

San Pedro Bay (California)

San Pedro Bay is an inlet on the Pacific Ocean coast of southern California, United States. It is the site of the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach, which together form the fifth-busiest port facility in the world (behind the ports of Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Shenzhen) and easily the busiest in the Western Hemisphere.


Most of the bay is between ten and twenty mt (32 and 75 feet) deep. The seabed near Long Beach has experienced considerable subsidence as a result of oil extraction in the Wilmington Field from the 1950s onward. Ironically, this helped the Port of Long Beach surpass the Port of Los Angeles as the leading port in the United States for a time in the 1980s and 1990s, since the deeper seafloor meant that Long Beach could accommodate ships with deeper drafts than could Los Angeles. Dredging operations related to the construction of a gigantic new marine terminal at the Port of Los Angeles have since made both sides of the bay accessible to even the largest existing container ships.


Natural islands in San Pedro Bay include Terminal Island (actually an augmented mudflat), the site of much of Los Angeles' and Long Beach's port facilities, and Mormon Island, the site of an abortive settlement attempt by San Bernardino-based Mormon pioneers in the 1850s. Land reclamation operations by Los Angeles have considerably enlarged Terminal Island, as well as linking Mormon Island to the mainland. The historic Deadman's Island sat at a landmark at the foot of the Bay, but was removed in 1928 as part of the effort to enlarge the harbor.

Four small artificial islands containing oil wells are scattered around the bay near Long Beach. The oil drilling equipment itself is masked by brightly-colored walls in an attempt to improve their appearance from shore. These islands, named Oil Islands Freeman, Grissom, White, and Chaffee, are named for Theodore Freeman, the first United States NASA astronaut to die during flight, and for Virgil I. Grissom, Ed White, and Roger B. Chaffee, who were killed by a fire during the Apollo One mission.


A 13.6 kilometer (8.4 mile) long breakwater stretches across most of the bay, with two openings to allow ships to enter the port areas behind it. The initial western section of the breakwater, called the San Pedro Breakwater, was constructed between 1899 and 1911; the Middle breakwater was completed over the next twenty-five years, and the Long Beach breakwater was finished after World War II. The Long Beach breakwater is the target of moderate local controversy within that town; some environmental groups, including the Long Beach branch of the Surfrider Foundation, have proposed modifying or removing the breakwater to promote better water flow and a more natural coastal environment. This removal is opposed by many waterfront property owners and shippers, who argue that the breakwater provides needed protection from storm damage.

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