List Notes: This list does not include Greenland which has 44,087 kilometres of coastline but is an autonomous country within Denmark. If it were to be included it would be number 3 on the list. The United States is a respectable 8th on the list at 19,924 km (12,383 miles).
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Canada has the longest coastline of any nation, bordering on three oceans: Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic. Out of the ten provinces and territories of Canada that have coastline, the province with the most is Newfoundland & Labrador with 28,956 kilometres (including islands). The province/territory with the smallest coastline is the Yukon with 343 kilometres. Nearly one-fourth of all the fresh water in the world is in Canada with more than two million lakes and an incalculable number of rivers. If you were to try to walk around Canada, following the shoreline at a good pace of 20 kilometres each day, it would take you 33 years to complete the journey. Approximately seven million Canadians live in coastal areas and including all the islands the coastline of Canada is more than six times as long as the distance around the earth at the equator.
A countries coastline follows the general line of the coast, but sometimes, in the case of small inlets or bays, the coastline is measured as running directly across the bay or inlet to rejoin the coastline on the opposite side. Coastline is not measured as precisely as is shoreline. Coastline measurements are more difficult because of the effects of tides and the
necessarily arbitrary decisions that must be made about measuring bays, coves, islands,
and inlets leading to streams and rivers.
There exists a term "coastline paradox" that describes the counterintuitive observation that the coastline of a landmass does not have a well-defined length. This results from the fractal-like properties of coastlines. It was first observed by Lewis Fry Richardson. More concretely, the length of the coastline depends on the method used to measure it. Since a landmass has features at all scales, from hundreds of kilometres in size to tiny fractions of a millimetre and below, there is no obvious limit to the size of the smallest feature that should not be measured around, and hence no single well-defined perimeter to the landmass. Various approximations exist when specific assumptions are made about minimum feature size.
More concretely, the length of the coastline depends on the method used to measure it. Since a landmass has features at all scales, from hundreds of kilometres in size to tiny fractions of a millimeter and below, there is no obvious limit to the size of the smallest feature that should not be measured around, and hence no single well-defined perimeter to the landmass. Various approximations exist when specific assumptions are made about minimum feature size.
Over 70 per cent of the world's surface is covered by sea, 80 per cent of countries have a coastline and most of the world's population live within 500 kilometres (300 miles) of a coast. Only areas deep inside Russia, parts of central Africa, South America, northern Canada,
Greenland and the USA are beyond the 1000 km (650 miles) coastal or littoral regions.
The length of the coast in the Russian Arctic exceeds 40,000 km.
Top 5 facts sources:
Natural Resources Canada, CoastWeb. "Facts about Canada's Coastline". Retrieved 2010-10-21.
Beaver, Janice Cheryl."U.S. International Borders: Brief Facts". CRS Report for Congress. Retrieved 2010-10-21
Jane's Amphibious Warfare Capabilities (Coulsdon, UK: Jane's Information Group, 2000).