History of Shark Bay

History of Shark Bay, Western Australia Shark Bay is located 870km north of Perth at the most westerly point of the Australian continent, comprising of a series of peninsulas, inlets and islands.

World Heritage Site

The Shark Bay Marine Park covers an area of approximately 748,735 ha or 25,000sqkm with a 1,500km long coastline. In 1991 the area of Shark Bay was listed as World Heritage Site and is only one of eleven sites in the world to satisfy all four criteria. History of Shark Bay, Western Australia The unique area of the world is home to ; the largest reported sea grass meadows in the world (approximately 4,000 sqkm.), approximately 13% of the world population of dugong, five endangered species of mammals and the oldest living fossils in the world, stromatolites.

The vast and diverse population of native animals in the Shark Bay area are protected from predators by an electric fence that runs north to south. To gain access to the peninsula all vehicles must cross the electric fence line. When you do cross the fence, you will hear a barking sound. This is another deterrent. A sensor triggers off a barking sound to scare off any would-be predators, such as foxes, who might be thinking of crossing into the reserve, via the roadway. Gave me quite a scare too!

Tribal Lands

History of Shark Bay, Western Australia Shark Bay area is part of the tribal lands of the Nganda and Malgana people who have inhabited the region for many thousands of years. At Eagle Bluff the remains and artifacts from an old Aboriginal settlement date back to 2000BC.

Dutch Landings

The first recorded landing of a European in Australia was on the 25th, October, 1616 when Dutch Sea Captain, Dirk Hartog landed at Cape Inscription. History of Shark Bay, Western AustraliaHartog left a reminder of his landing by nailing a inscribed pewter plate to a post before heading onto Java. In 1697, another Dutch Captain, William De Vlamingh, searching for survivors of a missing ship, landed on the same island, removed Hartog's pewter plate and replaced it with one of his own. Vlamingh later returned Hartog's plate to Holland. A succession of explorers followed from England and France.

More Explorers

In 1699, the Englishman, William Dampier explored the West Coast of Australia. After exploring the area he named the bay, Shark Bay.

In 1772, a Frenchman, Francois St Allouarn, laid formal claim to the territory on behalf of France and then buried two coins and a parchment in a bottle.

In the early 1800's the French Government sent several ships to explore and chart the area. Louis Freycinet and Francois Peron surveyed and charted all the inlets from Dirk Hartog Island to the Peninsular now known as Peron Peninsular.

In 1858, the whole area of Shark Bay was explored and charted by Captain, H.M. Denham, on the HMS Herald.

Farming and Sandalwood

The area was opened up to farmers in the 1860's after being explored and mapped by Frank Gregory in the 1850's. With conditions unpredictable many farmers supplemented their income buy cutting and selling sandalwood. The first shipment of sandalwood timber was exported from Shark Bay in the 1890's. The aromatic timber was used in Asia to make joss sticks (incense) for religious ceremonies. Sandalwood is a small tree (shrub) that grows to a height of between 3-8m tall. The heartwood is highly sort and valued for its aromatic oils and craftwood.


Pearling was the biggest industry in the area from 1850's until the 1940's. The pearls were used for jewellery and the shells for buttons.

Quarantine Hospitals

Between 1904-1911 quarantine hospitals were set up for Aboriginals with leprosy and venereal diseases on Bernier and Dorre islands.


Today, Shark Bay has a population of approximately 750, mainly located in Denham, the largest town in the region. The economy of the region relies mainly on tourism, fishing and pastoralism. Over 170,000 tourists visit Shark Bay annually, with many coming just to interact with the dolphins at Monkey Mia.

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