Recherche Archipelago is a group of 105 islands, and over 1200 "obstacles to shipping", off the South coast of Western Australia. The islands stretch 230 km (140 mi) from East to West and to 50 km (31 mi) off-shore encompassing an area of approximately 4,000 square kilometres (1,544 sq mi). The western group is near Esperance and the eastern group at Israelite Bay. They are located in coastal and inland waters, part of which is designated the Recherche Archipelago Nature Reserve.
Indigenous Australians are thought to have inhabited some of the islands up to 18,000 years ago. Archeologists have found ancient artefacts on Salisbury Island such as stone blades, lizard traps, axe heads, grinding stones and granite watering holes. The objects are believed to be 5,000 to 18,000 years old from a time when many of the islands were joined to the mainland.
European discovery and naming
The islands became known to Europeans when François Thijssen and Pieter Nuyts, sailing on 'Gulden Zeepaert, sighted and explored the area in 1627. George Vancouver also passed through the archipelago as part of his expedition in HMS Discovery in 1791. The area was named the Recherche Archipelago (French: L’Archipel de la Recherche, IPA: [aʁ.ʃi.pɛl də la ʁə.ʃɛʁʃ]) by Bruni d'Entrecasteaux during a French expedition in 1792. This name was taken from one of the Rear Admiral's ships, La Recherche; the town of Esperance is named from the other ship of the expedition. They also came to be known as the D'Entrecasteaux Islands. Matthew Flinders was the first to explore and chart the islands of the archipelago in 1802 as part of his voyage in the Investigator.
Flinders ditched two anchors when leaving Middle Island in 1803. These were found and recovered in 1973 by divers. The best bower anchor is on display at the South Australian Maritime Museum while the stream anchor can be seen at the National Museum of Australia.
Sealers and whalers from the eastern states of Australia frequented the area since at least the early 1820s.
The brig Belinda was wrecked off Middle Island while sealing in late 1824, the crew all made it safely to shore and were picked up the Nereus shortly afyerward and taken back to Sydney. The schooner Liberty salvaged the wreck the following year collecting metal stores and both the anchors.
Australia's only recorded pirate, Black Jack Anderson, frequented the archipelago in the 1830s. A former whaler, he turned to piracy and wreaked havoc in the area until being murdered by his crew. Middle Island was regarded as the Right Whale station of the bight in the 1830s and 1840s.
The Mountaineer was sunk off Thistle Cove near Cape Le Grand in 1835 while attempting to find shelter from a gale. The Rodondo was thought to be wrecked on Polloch Reef off Salisbury Island in 1895.
The SS Penguin was wrecked in 1920 off Middle Island while trying to shelter from a gale. The vessel was salvaged later the following year.
On 14 February 1991 the Sanko Harvest a bulk carrier of 33,024 tons sank in the archipelago – and it became the second largest wreck that can be dived on in the world. The response to pollution caused by the wreck was reported upon soon after
Uses of the area now include recreational and commercial fishing, and shipping from the Port of Esperance.
Commercial fishing is primarily for abalone, southern rock lobsters, pilchards, and sharks, and fishing tourism is an established industry. The area is proposed for other applications of aquaculture, including farming trials of Bluefin Tuna.
The archipelago includes 105 features classed as islands, and more than 1500 islets. The islands of the archipelago have a combined area of 9,720 hectares (24,019 acres). The islands are generally composed of granite outcrops, often with steep slopes and usually lacking beaches. A large number of features are submerged, some becoming exposed by tides. The coast is subject to some of the most extreme wave energy in all of Australia, with the wave energy causing abrasion as far down as 100 metres (328 ft) during storms. The inner shelf of the archipelago has an average depth of 40 metres (131 ft) with most of the islands being in 60 metres (197 ft) of water.
The islands are usually considered as being either in the western group, near Esperance and Woody Island and Cape Le Grand National Park, or in the eastern group where Middle Island is most prominent, near Cape Arid National Park Some surveys of the archipelago go further than the eastern and western distinction and consider groupings around named islands.
Part of the area is included in the bioregion described as Esperance 2 (ESP2), the 'Recherche subregion', which contains Cape Le Grand National Park at its western end, and the Cape Arid National Park at the eastern end. This area is named the Recherche Archipelago Nature Reserve.
|Anvil Island, Anvil Island||A haul-out site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Barrier Island, Barrier Island||Composed of gneiss and providing protection for some of the beaches near Cape Arid. Also a haul-out site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Beaumont Island, Beaumont Island||34°05′24″S 122°32′20″E||Possible breeding site for the Australian Sea Lion|
|Bellinger Island, Bellinger Island||33°53′13″S 123°38′20″E||Possible breeding site for the Australian Sea Lion. The schooner Mary Ann was wrecked in 1876 while anchored under the lee of the island.|
|Ben Island, Ben Island||33°54′00″S 122°45′13″E||Scientific research has been conducted on the island.|
|Boxer Island, Boxer Island||33°59′52″S 121°40′40″E||A haul-out site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Capps Island, Capps Island||33°59′16″S 121°40′55″E||A haul-out site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Canning Island, Canning Island||16 hectares (40 acres)||Supports a population of 2000-3000 pairs of the White-faced Storm-Petrel.|
|Charley Island, Charley Island||Supports a small population of the Bush rat.|
|Cooper Island, Cooper Island||A breeding site for the Australian Sea Lion and the New Zealand Fur Seal.|
|Corbett Island, Corbett Island||34°07′01″S 121°58′58″E||A haul-out site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Cranny Island, Cranny Island||A haul-out site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Cull Island, Cull Island||68 hectares (168 acres)||Supports a population of 30 Cape Barren Geese|
|Daw Island, Daw Island||A possible breeding site for the Australian Sea Lion. The island supports a small population of the Bush rat.|
|Draper Island, Draper Island||A haul-out site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Figure of Eight Island, Figure of Eight Island||A possible breeding site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Finger Island, Finger Island||A possible breeding site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Forrest Island, Forrest Island|||
|Frederick Island, Frederick Island||77 hectares (190 acres)||Supports 500-100 pairs Flesh-footed Shearwater and 5000-8000 pairs White-faced Storm-Petrel|
|Glennie Island, Glennie Island||A possible breeding site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Gulch Island, Gulch Island||The granite island is approximately 2 kilometres (1 mi) in length and rises to a height of about 20 metres (66 ft). It is situated about 3 kilometres (2 mi) off-shore from the beaches west of Cape Arid.|
|Halfway Island, Halfway Island||A possible breeding site for the Australian Sea Lion. Locally known as Ford Island.|
|Hasler Island, Hasler Island||A haul-out site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Hastings Island, Hastings Island||A haul-out site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Hector Island, Hector Island||A haul-out site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Helby Island, Helby Island||A haul-out site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|High North Island, High North Island||A haul-out site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Hood Island, Hood Island||131 hectares (324 acres)||Supports a small population of the Bush rat.|
|Hope Island, Hope Island||A haul-out site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Hugo Island, Hugo Island||A haul-out site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Kermadec Island, Kermadec Island||Also known locally as Wedge Island, a breeding site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Little Island, Little Island||A breeding site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Long Island, Long Island||138 hectares (341 acres)||Supports hundreds of Flesh-footed Shearwater|
|Lorraine Island, Lorraine Island||9 hectares (22 acres)||Supports 2000-3000 pairs White-faced Storm-Petrel|
|MacKenzie Island, MacKenzie Island||48 hectares (119 acres)||A breeding site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Manicom Island, Manicom Island||A haul-out site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Middle Island, Middle Island||1,080 hectares (2,669 acres)||There have been historical activities on the island.
It is the largest island in the archipelago.
It was named by D'Entrecasteaux. Matthew Flinders visited in January 1802 and climbed the 185 metres (607 ft) peak (subsequently named Flinders Peak) to survey the surrounding islands.
The island contains a pink lake, Lake Hillier, from which John Thistle, the Investigator's Master, collected some salt samples.
The Pirate, Black Jack Anderson, based himself on this island to launch raids on vessels making their way between Adelaide and Albany. The Belinda was wrecked off Middle Island in 1824, the SS Penguin was wrecked off the island while sheltering from a gale in 1920. The island supports a population of the Tammar wallaby and the Bush rat. The island is 6.5 kilometres (4 mi) in length and approximately 9 kilometres (6 mi) off shore from Cape Arid.
|Mondrain Island, Mondrain Island||810 hectares (2,002 acres)||Supports a population of Recherche Rock-wallabies, Black-flanked rock-wallaby and the Bush rat.
The highest point is Baudin Peak. (222 metres (728 ft))
|Nares Island, Nares Island||6 hectares (15 acres)||Known to have 3-4 pairs of White-faced Storm-Petrel|
|New Year Island, New Year Island||A haul-out site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Nook Island, Nook Island||A breeding site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|North Twin Peak Island, North Twin Peak Island||Supports a small population of the Bush rat.|
|Observatory Island, Observatory Island||101 hectares (250 acres)||Captains Bruni d’Entrecasteaux and Huon de Kermandec sheltered on the lee side of this island in 1792 during a wild storm.
While their ships, Le Recherche and L’Esperance, were at anchor, Captain d'Entrecasteaux decided to name the bay after the first ship to enter it – L’Esperance. The island supports a colony of 20-30 pairs Little Penguins.
|Pasley Island, Pasley Island||Also known as Paisley Island, a possible breeding site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Passage Island, Passage Island||A haul-out site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Pearson Island, Pearson Island||A haul-out site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Ram Island, Ram Island||142 hectares (351 acres)||Supports a colony of 300-500 pairs Flesh-footed Shearwater|
|Red Island, Red Island||A haul-out site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Remark Island, Remark Island||101 hectares (250 acres)||Ten nests of the Black-faced Cormorant are known on the island|
|Rocky Island, Rocky Island||A breeding site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Rodonia Island, Rodonia Island||A haul-out site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Round Island, Round Island||A breeding site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Salisbury Island, Salisbury Island||320 hectares (791 acres)||A breeding ground for the Australian Fur Seal and the New Zealand Fur Seal.
Also supports a population of the Black-flanked Rock-wallaby. the Bush rat.
|Sandy Hook Island, Sandy Hook Island||285 hectares (704 acres)||Flesh-footed Shearwater common on this island.|
|Slipper Island, Slipper Island||A possible breeding site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Stanley Island, Stanley Island||Also known as Wickham Island, a breeding site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Tadpole Island, Tadpole Island||A haul-out site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Taylor Island, Taylor Island||A breeding site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Termination Island, Termination Island||A possible breeding site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Tizard Island, Tizard Island||A haul-out site for the Australian Sea Lion.|
|Westall Island, Westall Island||70 hectares (173 acres)||Supports a population of the Recherche Rock-wallaby and Black-flanked rock-wallaby|
|Wickham Island, Wickham Island||34°01′16″S 123°17′23″E|
|Wilson Island, Wilson Island||90 hectares (222 acres)||Supports a population of Recherche the Rock-wallaby and Black-flanked rock-wallaby|
|Woody Island, Woody Island||188 hectares (465 acres)||The only island within the reserve with public access and usage.|
Flora and fauna
The area is a biodiversity hotspot with high biodiversity and a large number of species that are native to the region. The environment contains a diverse array of subtropical and temperate flora and fauna. This is partly due to the Leeuwin current that flows in an easterly direction, this warms the cold seas to over 20 °C (68 °F) in summer. Larger islands have a substrate that supports vegetation, nesting birds, and other animals. A complex marine environment is found in the surrounding waters, the benthic habitat is various densities of seagrass meadows, reefs, or bare sand.
The waters around the islands meet often steep faces of granite, the extensive reefs and other features form habitat which supports a rich diversity of marine life. This includes 263 known species of fish, 347 known species of mollusc, and over 450 types of sponge, sea grasses, and soft corals. A coral-like algae species, rhodoliths, form beds which support marine species of spiders, snails, and worms, also acting as a creche for scallops. Marine mammals associated with the islands include two species of seal, large groups of common dolphins (Delphinus delphis), and Minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata).
Seagrasses found at the island include: Amphibolis antarctica, Amphibolis griffithii, Halophila decipiens, Halophila ovalis, Posidonia angustifolia, Posidonia australis, Posidonia coriacea, Posidonia denhartogii, Posidonia kirkmani, Posidonia ostenfeldii, Posidonia sinuosa, Syringodium isoetifolium, and Thalassodendron pachyrhizum.
The islands support populations of terrestrial flora and fauna, some of which are unique to the archipelago. New Zealand Fur Seal (Arctocephalus forsteri) and Australian Sea-lion (Neophoca cinerea) breeding colonies are found on some islands, with haul-out sites on many. Marsupials include Tammars (Macropus eugenii derbianus), a species of Bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus), two subspecies of Rock Wallabies (Petrogale lateralis lateralis and Petrogale lateralis hacketti). Snakes include the Recherche Island Dugite (Pseudonaja affinis tanneri) on Cull Island, and the python Morelia spilota imbricata. Other reptiles include the Barking gecko (Underwoodisaurus milii), Ornate Dragon (Ctenophorus ornatus), and the Southern Heath Monitor (Varanus rosenbergi). Two species of frog are also found on the islands; the Quacking Frog Crinia georgiana and Spotted-thighed Frog Litoria cyclorhyncha.:
The archipelago has been identified by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area (IBA) because it is the only breeding site for the western subspecies of Cape Barren Goose known as the Recherche Cape Barren Goose. It also supports over 1% of the world populations of Flesh-footed Shearwaters, Sooty Oystercatchers, Fairy Terns and, probably, White-faced Storm-Petrels. Rock Parrots and Red-eared Firetails have also been recorded.
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- Christopher, P. & Cundell, N. (editors), (2004), Let's Go For a Dive, 50 years of the Underwater Explorers Club of SA, published by Peter Christopher, Kent Town, SA, pp.45–49. This describes the search and recovery of the anchors by members of the Underwater Explorers Club of South Australia
- Christopher, P. & Cundell, N. (editors), (2004), Let's Go For a Dive, 50 years of the Underwater Explorers Club of SA, published by Peter Christopher, Kent Town, SA, pp.48
- 'HM Sloop Investigator anchor,' http://maritime.historysa.com.au/collections/exploration/hm-sloop-investigator-anchor, retrieved 16 July 2012.
- Stream anchor from Matthew Flinders' ship the 'Investigator', National Museum of Australia
- Alistair Paterson and Corioli Souter (April 2006). "Report on historical archeological expedition to Middle and Boxer Islands, Recherche Archipelago". Western Australian Museum. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
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- (1994) Wreck has become a massive artificial reef. Second largest vessel in the world that can be dived Landscope, Winter 1994, p. 23-27
- (1995) Government declares 500-metre radius around the wreck a protected area for local marine life and recreational diving Western fisheries, May/June 1995, p.7
- Western Australia. State Committee for Combating Marine Oil Pollution.(1991) Report on pollution response operations at Esperance from the wreck of the "Sanko Harvest" / by the State Committee for Combating Marine Oil Pollution ; R.S. Purkiss, chairman. Fremantle, W.A : Dept of Marine & Harbours, 1991] no. DMH P4/91
- "Project description". Characterising the Fish habitats of the Recherche Archipelago. Fisheries Research and Development Corporation.
- "Management Plan for Esperance Coastal Reserves Issues". 2007. Archived from the original on 21 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-14.
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- Everall Consulting Biologist.(1999) Benthic habitat survey of the Remark, Mart, Mondrain, Tory and York Island groups in the Recherche Archipelago Perth, W.A. : Fisheries Western Australia, also known as Draft aquaculture plan for the Recherche Archipelago, Western Australia."February 1999"
- Andrew D. Short (1 January 2005). Beaches of the Western Australian Coast - Eucla to Roebuck Bay: A Guide to Their Nature, Characteristics, Surf and Safety. Sydney University Press. ISBN 9780958650434.
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- "Distribution of the Australian Sea Lion". 2007. Retrieved 3 November 2013.
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- "Distribution of the Australian Sea Lion" (PDF). 2007. Archived from the original on 29 August 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-11.
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- Harvey, Clare.(2001) Archaeologists unravel mysteries of Middle Island. Esperance express, 14 Aug 2001, p.7.
- Bindon, Peter.(1996) Report on a visit to Middle Island Recherche Archipelago, February 1996 Perth, W.A. Anthropology Dept., Western Australian Museum. Community report (Western Australian Museum. Anthropology Dept.) no. 1996/1.
- Flinders, Matthew (1966) . A Voyage to Terra Australis : undertaken for the purpose of completing the discovery of that vast country, and prosecuted in the years 1801, 1802, and 1803 in His Majesty's ship the Investigator, and subsequently in the armed vessel Porpoise and Cumberland Schooner; with an account of the shipwreck of the Porpoise, arrival of the Cumberland at Mauritius, and imprisonment of the commander during six years and a half in that island. (Facsimile ed.). Adelaide; Facsimile reprint of: London : G. and W. Nicol, 1814 ed. In two volumes, with an Atlas (3 volumes): Libraries Board of South Australia. pp. 200–202. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
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- "Petrogale lateralis lateralis – Black-flanked Rock-wallaby". Department of Environment. 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-11.
- "Petrogale lateralis hacketti – Recherche Rock-wallaby Glossary". Department of Environment. 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-11.
- "Marine bioregional plan for the South-west Marine Region - Draft for Consultation". Department of the Environment. 2011. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- Robyn Williams (20 August 2005). "The Recherche Archipelago". The Science Show. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "interview with Katrina Baxter"
- Kendrick, G.A., Harvey, E., Hill, J., McDonald, J.I. & Grove, S. (April 2002). "Review of existing information (appendix 1)" (PDF). Characterising the fish habitats of the Recherche Archipelago. School of Plant Biology, University of Western Australia. "APPENDIX SG1: Seagrass species found within the Recherche Archipelago region (after Campey et al., (2000); D.A. Lord & UWA (2001); Kirkman (1997); Walker, (1991); Waycott, (1998 & 2000))."
- Browne-Cooper, R., Bush, B., Maryan, B., Robinson, D. (2007). "Island species lists; Recherche Archipelago". Reptiles and Frogs in the Bush: Southwestern Australia. University of Western Australia Press. p. 281. ISBN 978-1-920694-74-6.
- "IBA: Recherche Archipelago". Birdata. Birds Australia. Retrieved 2011-09-27.
- Australian Geographical Society (1952–1954). Expedition to the Recherché Archipelago, Western Australia. Australian Geographical Society reports. no.1 (7 reports in 4 volumes)
- pt. 1a. General history by J.M. Bechervaise—pt. 1b. Physiography by R.W. Fairbridge and V.N. Serventy—pt. 2. Birds by V.N. Serventy—pt. 3. Plants, 3a. Land flora by J.H. Willis, 3b. Marine algae by H.B.S. Womersley—pt. 4. Mammals by V. N. Serventy—pt. 5. Reptiles and frogs by L. Glauert—pt. 6. Spiders and opiliones by Barbara York Main—pt. 7. Molluscs (sea shells and snails) by J. Hope Macpherson.
- Kendrick, G. (et al.) (2005) Characterising the fish habitats of the Recherche Archipelago Crawley, W.A. University of Western Australia. Fisheries Research and Development Corporation. ISBN 1-74052-122-6 "Fisheries Research and Development Corporation report, project no. 2001/060."
- Thomson-Dans, Carolyn, Kendrick, Gary and Bancroft, Kevin (2003) Researching the Recherche.Landscope (Como, W.A), Winter 2003, p. 6–8,
- Beautemps-Beaupré, C. F. (1807) Carte de l'archipel de la Recherche, situé à la partie occidentale de la terre de Nuyts, reconnu par le contre amiral Bruny-Dentrecasteaux, en décembre 1792 (an 1er de l'ere Française) Paris : Dépôt général des cartes et plans de la marine et des colonies], Battye Library Map Stack B/23/17 Scale [ca. 1:436,000] (Map of Recherche Archipelago showing track of Recherche and Espérance in December 1792). (Battye copy reduced to approximately 1:812,000 and 25 x 38.4 cm)