Barrow Island (Western Australia)
|Location||Indian Ocean, off the Pilbara coast of Western Australia|
|Area||202 km2 (78 sq mi)|
|Length||27 km (16.8 mi)|
|Width||11.5 km (7.15 mi)|
|Coastline||72 km (44.7 mi)|
Barrow Island is a 202 km2 (78 sq mi) island 50 kilometres (31 mi) northwest off the Pilbara coast of Western Australia. The island is the second largest in Western Australia after Dirk Hartog Island.
Discovery and early history
Navigators had noted its existence since the early 17th century, and Nicholas Baudin sighted it in 1803, mistakenly believing it to be part of mainland Australia. Phillip Parker King named the island in 1816 after Sir John Barrow, a Secretary of the Admiralty and founder of the Royal Geographical Society.
The island contains no evidence of indigenous Australians. Until last century, the island remained uninhabited, mostly because of a lack of water.
Whalers were known to operate in the area from about 1800 onwards. The first recorded visit by whalers was in 1842 with continued visits occurring until 1864. The island was used as a slave trading centre for Aborigines during the 1870s by Captain William Cadell until he was arrested and removed from the colony in 1876. Slave labour was used in the nearby mainland pearling industry.
Barrow Island is noted for its flat spinifex grasslands spotted with termite mounds. No exotic animals have been established, but many rare and endangered species have flourished. Threats have included rats, cats, other predators, and the nearby energy production facility. Other species, such as perentie (Australia's biggest lizard), Barrow Island euro, Spectacled Hare-wallaby, bettong, golden bandicoot, osprey, and the Barrow Island mouse (Pseudomys nanus ferculinus) are also present. Marine species include green turtle and dugong.
Limestone caves on Barrow Island support subterranean ecological communities. These include endemic and vulnerable species. Invertebrate species include Stygofauna, amphipod crustaceans, of Nedsia, Liagoceradocus and other genera. These mostly inhabit an anchialine system, a 'lens' of fresh water above the saline ground water, which they share with species such as Milyeringa veritas—the Blind gudgeon. Troglofauna have also been discovered within the cave systems; these include the schizomid Draculoides bramstokeri and perhaps the only troglobitic reptile—Ramphotyphlops longissimus. Hydrogen sulphide produced by the 'Barrow fault' may sustain this diverse community through chemoautotrophic energy production.
Barrow Island has been classified by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area. Birds include the Barrow Island Black-and-white Fairy-wren (Malurus leucopterus edouardi), an endemic subspecies of the White-winged Fairy-wren which is regarded as vulnerable to extinction. The island also supports over 1% of the world populations of Grey-tailed Tattler, Red-necked Stint, Pied Oystercatcher and Fairy Tern, as well as an isolated population of the Spinifexbird.
The Western Shield project has sought to reduce the impact of introduced species to the region. Corporate and state government cooperation on programs has produced studies into the little-known subterranean fauna of the island.
Oil was discovered on the island in commercial quantities in 1964 by West Australian Petroleum Pty Ltd (WAPET), and the first oil field was established shortly after. In 1995, there were 430 wells producing oil and natural gas across most of the southern half of the island. The site has been Australia's leading producer of oil.
Oil tankers are filled by a submarine pipeline that extends 10 km offshore. WAPET established a 200-room apartment complex for workers on the island. A private airport facility known as Barrow Island Airport (IATA: BWB, ICAO: YBWX) was also established to transport workers and equipment from Karratha and Perth.
In December 2009, a development consortium between the Australian subsidiaries of Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell received environmental approvals from the Government of Western Australia to develop natural gas reserves 60 km north of the island. Known as the Gorgon gas project it is currently under construction (Jan 2012) and will become Australia's largest resource project, mining 40 trillion cubic feet (1,100 km3) of gas from about mid-2014.
|Climate data for Barrow Island Airport, 1999-2013|
|Average high °C (°F)||33.3
|Average low °C (°F)||26.0
|Precipitation mm (inches)||24.8
|Avg. rainy days (≥ 1 mm)||2.1||2.5||2.6||1.4||2.3||1.9||1.1||0.5||0.1||0.1||0.1||0.4||15.1|
|Source: Australian Bureau of Meteorology|
Highest wind record
The World Meteorological Organization established Barrow Island as the location of the highest non-tornado related wind gust at 408 km/h (253 mph). The record occurred on 10 April 1996, during Tropical Cyclone Olivia. The previous record was a 372 km/h (231 mph) gust at Mount Washington, New Hampshire, USA in April 1934.
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- "Landgate - Interesting facts about Western Australia". 2009. Archived from the original on 12 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-24.
- "Barrow Island". gorgon.com.au. Retrieved 2006-12-13.
- "Morowa Historical Society - Ghosttowns of Western Australia". 2000. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
- "The West Australian". 1888. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
- Burbidge, Andrew A (2004). "4, 5, 8, 9.". Threatened animals of Western Australia. Department of Conservation and Land Management. ISBN 0-7307-5549-5. "Threats: The production of oil since the 1960s has resulted in considerable pollution of the ground water ... effect this pollution has had, if any, is not known."
- Ramer, Holly. "231-mph NH wind gust is no longer world's fastest". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 29 January 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-26.[dead link]
- Josh Fisher. (28 January 2010). Australia blows away world record. Wratherzone.
- "IBA: Barrow Island". Birdata. Birds Australia. Retrieved 2011-05-19.
- "Technology in Australia 1788-1988: North West Shelf". Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre. Retrieved 2007-10-12.
- Mitch Reardon. The Good Oil on Conservation in Australian Geographic. #37, Jan - Mar 1995. p. 94
- "Satellite image of workers housing complex". Wikimapia. Archived from the original on 14 December 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-14.
- "Gorgon Project". gorgon.com.au. Retrieved 2006-12-13.
- World Record Wind Gust: 408 km/h. World Meteorological Organization.
- Butler, Harry, (1982) Barrow Island (written by Harry Butler and compiled by Jacqueline Cox with assistance of other Wapet staff). Perth, W.A : West Australian Petroleum Pty Ltd.