Wilsons Promontory

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Tidal River as viewed from the summit of Mount Oberon. The settlement of Tidal River is visible in the bottom-right corner.
Looking south from Mount Oberon on Wilsons Promontory towards the southern tip of the Australian mainland.

Wilsons Promontory [1] is a peninsula that forms the southernmost part of the Australian mainland and is located at 39°02′S 146°23′E / 39.033°S 146.383°E / -39.033; 146.383. South Point at 39°08′06″S 146°22′32″E / 39.13500°S 146.37556°E / -39.13500; 146.37556 is the southernmost tip of Wilsons Promontory and hence of mainland Australia. Located at nearby South East Point, (39°07′S 146°25′E / 39.117°S 146.417°E / -39.117; 146.417) is the Wilsons Promontory Lighthouse. Most of the peninsula is protected by the Wilsons Promontory National Park.

Human history[edit]

Evidence of Aboriginal occupation at Wilsons Promontory dates back at least 6,500 years and the park is highly significant to the Gunai/Kurnai and the Boonerwrung Clans who call it Yiruk and Warnoon respectively.[2]

The first European to see the promontory was George Bass in January 1798.[3] He initially referred to it as "Furneaux's Land" in his diary, believing it to be what Captain Furneaux had previously seen. But on returning to Port Jackson and consulting Matthew Flinders he was convinced that the location was so different it could not be that land. Bass and Flinders recommended the name Wilsons Promontory to Governor Hunter, honouring Flinders's friend from London Thomas Wilson. Little is known of Wilson except that he was a merchant engaged in trade with Australia.[4]

The promontory has been a National Park, to one degree or another, since 1898. Wilsons Promontory National Park, also known locally as "the Prom", contains the largest coastal wilderness area in Victoria. The site was closed to the public during World War II, as it was used as a commando training ground. The only settlement within Wilsons Promontory is Tidal River which lies 30 km south of the park boundary and is the focus for tourism and recreation. This park is managed by Parks Victoria[5] In 2005 a burn started by staff got out of control and burnt 13% of the park, causing the evacuation of campers. [6] In 2009, a lightning strike near Sealer's Cove started a fire that burned over 25,000 hectares. Much of the area had not been burned since 1951.[7] The fire began on February 8 during "Black Saturday" where an intense heat wave, combined with arson, faulty electrical infrastructure and natural causes, led to hundreds of bush fires burning throughout the state of Victoria. Although the fire burned to within one kilometer, the Tidal River camping area and park headquarters were unaffected. The park reopened to the public one month after the incident and the burned areas have quickly regrown.[8] Despite the damage, the natural beauty of the area remains largely intact.[9]

A map of the burned area is available online at [10] In March 2011 a significant rainfall event led to major flooding of the Tidal River camping area. The bridge over Darby river was cut, leaving no vehicle access to Tidal river, leading to the evacuation of all visitors by Helicopter over the following days, and the closure of the southern section of the park. In September 2011 public access to Tidal River was reopened following repair of the main access road, and the bridge at Darby river. All sections of the park south of Tidal River remain closed while further repairs are undertaken.

Erosion damage caused by the March 2011 floods, as viewed southwards towards Lilly Pilly Gully in March 2012.

Geography[edit]

Coastal features include expansive intertidal mudflats, sandy beaches and sheltered coves interrupted by prominent headlands and plunging granite cliffs in the south, backed by coastal dunes and swamps. The promontory is surrounded by a scatter of small granite islands which, collectively, form the Wilsons Promontory Islands Important Bird Area, identified as such by BirdLife International because of its importance for breeding seabirds.[11]

Rivers[edit]

Tidal River is the main river in Wilsons Promontory. It runs into Norman Bay and swells with the tide (hence the name). The river is a very interesting colour, a purple-yellow. This is due to the large number of tea trees in the area, which stain the water with tannin, giving it a tealike appearance. Darby River is the second major river, with extensive alluvial flats and meanders. It was the site of the original park entrance and accommodation area from 1909 to the Second World War.[12]

Wildlife[edit]

Swamp wallaby at Wilsons Promontory

Wilsons Promontory is home to many marsupials, native birds and other creatures. One of the most common marsupials found on the promontory is the Common Wombat, which can be found in much of the park (especially around campsites where it has been known to invade tents searching for food). The peninsula is also home to kangaroos, wallabies, Koalas, Long-nosed Potoroos, White-footed Dunnarts, Broad-toothed Rats, Feather-tailed Gliders and Emus. Some of the most common birds found on the promontory include Crimson Rosellas, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos and Superb Fairywrens. There are also many pests Hog Deer, foxes, feral cats, rabbits, Common Starlings, and Common Blackbirds.

Climate[edit]

Climate data for Wilsons Promontory
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 41.4
(106.5)
42.0
(107.6)
36.9
(98.4)
32.2
(90)
25.7
(78.3)
22.2
(72)
22.0
(71.6)
24.4
(75.9)
30.0
(86)
32.8
(91)
36.7
(98.1)
37.1
(98.8)
42.0
(107.6)
Average high °C (°F) 20.3
(68.5)
20.5
(68.9)
19.4
(66.9)
17.3
(63.1)
14.9
(58.8)
13.0
(55.4)
12.2
(54)
12.8
(55)
14.2
(57.6)
15.8
(60.4)
17.2
(63)
18.8
(65.8)
16.4
(61.5)
Average low °C (°F) 14.0
(57.2)
14.8
(58.6)
14.1
(57.4)
12.7
(54.9)
11.1
(52)
9.3
(48.7)
8.3
(46.9)
8.3
(46.9)
9.0
(48.2)
10.0
(50)
11.2
(52.2)
12.6
(54.7)
11.3
(52.3)
Record low °C (°F) 5.6
(42.1)
7.2
(45)
5.4
(41.7)
3.3
(37.9)
3.3
(37.9)
−0.6
(30.9)
0.0
(32)
0.6
(33.1)
0.6
(33.1)
2.3
(36.1)
1.7
(35.1)
2.8
(37)
−0.6
(30.9)
Precipitation mm (inches) 50.7
(1.996)
46.4
(1.827)
69.6
(2.74)
85.2
(3.354)
112.6
(4.433)
119.5
(4.705)
122.1
(4.807)
120.9
(4.76)
98.5
(3.878)
92.2
(3.63)
71.6
(2.819)
63.7
(2.508)
1,052.6
(41.441)
Avg. precipitation days 9.8 8.9 11.8 14.8 17.7 18.8 19.3 19.4 17.6 16.0 13.3 11.8 179.2
Source: The Bureau of Meteorology [13]

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  • Wilsons Promontory Resources, Parks Victoria [3]
  1. ^ "Wilsons Promontory". Gazetteer of Australia. Geoscience Australia. Retrieved 2009-06-14. 
  2. ^ Aboriginal Cultural Heritage, Parkweb Victoria
  3. ^ [
  4. ^
  5. ^ .[1]
  6. ^ [2]
  7. ^ Ham, Larissa (February 27, 2009). "Firefighters continue to battle Wilsons Prom blaze". The Age (Melbourne). 
  8. ^ "Wilsons Promontory to reopen this weekend". The Age (Melbourne). March 18, 2009. 
  9. ^ "Wilsons Promontory after the bushfires". Wilsons Promontory reopens after bushfires:, The Sydney Morning Herald. 
  10. ^ Prom Map, Parks Victoria
  11. ^ "IBA: Wilsons Promontory Islands". Birdata. Birds Australia. Retrieved 2011-11-29. 
  12. ^ Garnet, J. Roslyn, (with additional chapters by Terry Synan and Daniel Catrice) A History of Wilsons Promontory, Published by the Victorian National Parks Association
  13. ^ "Climate Statistics for Wilsons Promontory, VIC". Retrieved February 11, 2012.