Wessel Islands

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The Wessel Islands are a group of islands belonging to the Northern Territory of Australia. They extend in a more or less straight line from Buckingham Bay and the Napier Peninsula of Arnhem Land, and Elcho Island, to the northeast. Marchinbar Island is the largest of the group. Other islands include Elcho Island, Rimbija Island (the most outlying island), Guluwuru Island, Raragala Island, Stevens Island, Burgunngura Island, Djeergaree Island, Yargara Island, Drysdale Island, Jirrgari Island, Graham Island, Alger Island, Abbott Island, and Howard Island.

Bumaga Island and Warnawi Island, both part of the Wessel Islands group, are also part of the Cunningham Islands.


Main article: Marchinbar coins

In 1944, Australian soldier Morry Isenberg found nine coins buried in the sand one day while fishing when he was stationed on Marchinbar Island. In 1979 he sent these coins to be authenticated.[1][2] Four of the coins were found to have come from the Dutch East India Company, while the other five were determined to be from the Kilwa Sultanate in Tanzania.[3]

Only one such Kilwan coin had ever previously been found outside east Africa (unearthed during an excavation in Oman). The inscriptions on the Jensen Bay coins identify a ruling Sultan of Kilwa, but it is unclear whether the ruler was from the 10th century or the 14th century. This discovery has been of interest to those historians who believe it likely that people made landfall in Australia or its offshore islands before the first generally accepted such discovery, by the Dutch sailor Willem Janszoon in 1606. (See Janszoon voyage of 1606 and History of Australia (1606–1787).)[4]


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Coordinates: 11°30′S 136°25′E / 11.500°S 136.417°E / -11.500; 136.417