noun, Physical Geography.
the part of a continent that is submerged in relatively shallow sea.
the sea bed surrounding a continent at depths of up to about 200 metres (100 fathoms), at the edge of which the continental slope drops steeply to the ocean floor
continental shelf
The part of the edge of a continent between the shoreline and the continental slope. It is covered by shallow ocean waters and has a very gentle slope.

The region adjoining the coastline of a continent, where the ocean is no more than a few hundred feet deep. The shelf is built up from sediments washed down to the sea by rivers.

Note: The continental shelves are often valuable because of the mineral resources and abundant marine life found there. (See offshore drilling.)

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