The Spencer Gulf is the westernmost of two large inlets on the southern coast of Australia, in the state of South Australia, facing the Great Australian Bight. The Gulf is 322 km (200 mi) long and 129 km (80 mi) wide at its mouth. The western shore of the Gulf is the Eyre Peninsula, while the eastern side is the Yorke Peninsula, which separates it from the smaller Gulf St Vincent. Its entrance was defined by Matthew Flinders as a line from Cape Catastrophe on Eyre Peninsula to Cape Spencer on Yorke Peninsula.
The largest towns on the gulf are Port Lincoln, Whyalla, Port Pirie, and Port Augusta. Smaller towns on the gulf include Tumby Bay, Port Neill, Arno Bay, Cowell, Port Germein, Port Broughton, Wallaroo, Port Hughes and Port Victoria.
The official name is now Spencer Gulf. The gulf was also named Golfe Bonaparte by Nicholas Baudin at roughly the same time as Flinders, but the name did not catch (others, like the Fleurieu Peninsula, did).
The area was first explored on land by Edward John Eyre in 1839 and 1840-41. Settlement of the shores of the Gulf began in the late 1840s. Settlement of Port Lincoln occurred much earlier, due in part to its fertility and utility to foreign whaling vessels, who operated off the south and west coasts. Port Lincoln was considered as the site of a potential alternative capital city in the 1830s, prior to the selection of Adelaide.
Spencer Gulf, in particular the rocky inshore reef along the coast south of Port Bonython and Point Lowly is a breeding ground for the Northern Spencer Gulf population of Giant Australian Cuttlefish. They are a favorite food of local dolphins, who have developed sophisticated techniques for safely eating these creatures. The Upper Spencer Gulf is also known for its snapper and Yellowtail kingfish fishing. Great White Sharks are sometimes seen in Spencer Gulf by fishermen, and shark cage diving and surface tours operate out of Port Lincoln.
Breeding colonies of Little penguins exist on islands in Spencer Gulf. The northernmost colonies are located at Lipson Island and Wardang Island. In 2004, the Wardang Island colony's population was approximately 8,000 penguins.
Important Bird Areas
The Spencer Gulf Important Bird Area lies along the north-eastern coast of the Gulf; it comprises a 460 km2 strip of coastal land consisting mainly of intertidal mudflats, mangroves and salt marshes. It was identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International because of its importance for the conservation of waders, or shorebirds.
Spencer Gulf contains five distinct Marine Parks, each with its own outer boundary and internal zoning. Fishing is prohibited with Sanctuary Zones, and detailed maps and GPS coordinates for the parks are available from the Government of South Australia's Department of Environment, Water & Natural Resources.
The marine parks within Spencer Gulf are (from north to south):
- Southern Spencer Gulf Marine Park
Spencer Gulf contains a number of inshore and offshore islands. These include (from north to south):
- Curlew Island (south of Port Augusta)
- Weeroona Island (north of Port Pirie)
- Shag Island (north of Port Broughton)
- Entrance Island (near Cowell)
- Bird Islands (near Wallaroo)
- Lipson Island (north of Tumby Bay)
- Tumby Island (south of Tumby Bay)
- Wardang Island & the Goose Island group (near Port Victoria)
- The Sir Joseph Banks Group (offshore from Tumby Bay)
- Louth Island & Rabbit Island (in Louth Bay)
- Boston Island (in Boston Bay)
- Grantham Island and Bicker Isles (in Proper Bay)
- Donington Island, Carcase Rock, Owen Island, Taylor Island, Grindal Island, Little Island, Lewis Island , Smith Island, Hopkins Island and Thistle Island (east of the Jussieu Peninsula).
- Middle Island, South Island & Royston Island (in Pondalowie Bay)
- Gambier Islands including Wedge Island (in the mouth of Spencer Gulf)
Port Development Proposals
Due to its proximity to many identified mineral deposits in South Australia's Far North, Eyre Peninsula and Braemar regions, there are multiple new port and harbor developments proposed for the region.
These include new or expanded facilities at (from north to south):
- Port Bonython - Port Bonython Bulk Commodities Export Facility - Spencer Gulf Port Link (proposed 2012)
- Whyalla - Inner harbour expansion - Arrium (completed 2013)
- Port Pirie - Possible expansion for trans-shipment of iron ore from the Braemar region (concept stage)
- Lucky Bay - Lucky Bay Common User Export Facility (harbour expansion) - SeaSA (proposed 2013)
- Myponie Point - Possible port location for Braemar region mineral exports (concept stage)
- Cape Hardy - Iron Road Ltd (proposed 2013)
- Lipson Cove - Port Spencer (formerly known as Sheep Hill) - Centrex Metals Ltd (proposed 2011)
Seawater desalination plants
There is currently only one reverse osmosis seawater desalination plant drawing water from Spencer Gulf. Several others are planned. All currently or will produce water primarily or exclusively for industrial use. They are:
- Whyalla steelworks (operated by Arrium) - capacity 1.6 GL per year
- Point Lowly (proposed by BHP Billiton to served the Olympic Dam mine) - capacity 100 GL per year
- Port Spencer (proposed by Centrex Metals) - capacity 5-20 GL per year
- Myponie Point (proposed to serve Braemer region mine developments) - capacity 20 GL per year
Spencer Gulf in Film & Video
The harbor of Port Broughton on the Eastern shore of Spencer Gulf
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Spencer Gulf.|
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