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Coordinates: 33°0′S 130°0′E / 33°S 130°E / -33; 130

Map of the Great Australian Bight.
The Great Australian Bight south of the Nullarbor. Credit Jacques Descloitres, Visible Earth, NASA.

The Great Australian Bight is a large bight, or open bay located off the central and western portions of the southern coastline of mainland Australia.

Contents

Extent

The International Hydrographic Organization defines the Great Australian Bight as part of the southeastern Indian Ocean, with the following limits:[1]

On the North. The South coast of Australia.

On the South. A line joining West Cape Howe (35°08′S 117°37′E / 35.133°S 117.617°E / -35.133; 117.617) Australia to South West Cape, Tasmania.

On the East. A line from Cape Otway, Australia, to King Island and thence to Cape Grim, the Northwest extreme of Tasmania.

The more generally accepted boundaries are from Cape Pasley, Western Australia, to Cape Carnot, South Australia - a distance of 1,160 km or 720 miles. The much more generally accepted name in Australia for the adjoining waterbody is the Southern Ocean rather than the Indian Ocean. Much of the Bight lies due south of the expansive Nullarbor Plain, which straddles the two Australian states of South Australia and Western Australia.

Exploration

The Great Australian Bight was first encountered by European explorers in 1627, when a Dutch navigator, Captain Thyssen, sailed along its western margins. The coast was later first accurately charted by the English explorer Captain Matthew Flinders in 1802, during his circumnavigation of the Australian continent. A later land-based survey was accomplished by Edward John Eyre.

Natural history

Great Australian Bight

The coast line of the Great Australian Bight is characterised by cliff faces (up to 60 m high), surfing beaches and rock platforms, ideal for whale-watching. The waters of the Great Australian Bight, despite being relatively shallow, are not fertile. While most continental shelves are rich in sea life and make popular fishing areas, the barren deserts north of the bight have very little rainfall, and what there is mostly flows inland, to dissipate underground or in salt lakes. In consequence, the Great Australian Bight receives very little of the runoff that fertilises most continental shelves and is essentially a marine desert. It is probably best noted for the large number of sharks that frequent its coastal waters, as well as the increasing numbers of Southern Right Whales that migrate within the region.

One location on the bight that is specifically oriented towards the understanding of the natural history on its coastline is the Eyre Bird Observatory.

Current conditions

Economically, the Bight has been exploited over many years as part of the fishing, whaling and shellfish industries. Bluefin tuna have been a favoured target of fishing in the Bight.

The settlements exist along the coastline of the Bight, such as Ceduna and Eucla have facilities to access the bight. Some other locations on the Eyre Highway or located on the Nullarbor do not have facilities or easy access.

See also

References

  1. ^ "Limits of Oceans and Seas, 3rd edition". International Hydrographic Organization. 1953. http://www.iho-ohi.net/iho_pubs/standard/S-23/S23_1953.pdf. Retrieved 7 February 2010. 

Further reading

  • Edminds, Jack (1976) Panorama of Western Australia : the Great Australian Bight Perth,W.A. Periodicals Division, West Australian Newspapers. ISBN 0909699119 (ANB/PRECIS SIN 0140147)

External links

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