Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Great Australian Bight
The Great Australian Bight is a large bight, or open bay, encompassing an area of the Southern Ocean located off the central and western portions of the southern coastline of mainland Australia. By definition of the International Hydrographic Bureau, the Great Australian Bight extends eastward from West Cape Howe , Western Australia, to South West Cape , 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. Much of the Bight lies due south of the expansive Nullarbor Plain, which straddles the two Australian states of South Australia and Western Australia.
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.
The coast line of the Great Australian Bight is characterised by stunning 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.
The bight is very stormy during winter months.
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.
A number of settlements exist along the coastline of the Bight, such as Ceduna.
- Great Australian Bight Marine Park - located in Commonwealth waters
- Great Australian Bight Marine Park - Eyre Peninsula - the South Australian portion of the park
- Great Australian Bight Trawl Fishery
- Wild Down Under Great Australian Bight - BBC Nature Documentary webpage for the fauna of the region
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