Marchinbar Island

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Coordinates: 11°15′02″S 136°38′01″E / 11.2505°S 136.6335°E / -11.2505; 136.6335 Marchinbar Island is the largest island in the Wessel Islands, Northern Territory, Australia, in the Arafura Sea. It is separated from Rimbija Island, the most northeasterly of the Wessel Islands, by a narrow channel, which is less than 400 metres across at its narrowest point. In the southeast, it is separated from Guluwuru Island by Cumberland Strait, which is 1600 metres wide at its narrowest point.

Administratively, Marchinbar Island is part of Gumurr Marthakal Ward of East Arnhem Region.

The island is a long and narrow island, 57.4 km long and maximally 8 km wide. It measures 210.9 km² in area.[1] The most northerly point of the island is called Low Point. Sphinx Head is a site of conspicuous cliffs up to 67 metres high, about 16 km SSW of Low Point. Two flat-topped hills south of Sphinx Head rise to a maximum height of 79 metres. The entire east coast of the island is cliffy and high.[2]

The only settlement is Martjanba, a small family outstation on Jensen Bay in the northern part of the island.[3]

Discovery of ancient coins[edit]

In 1944, nine coins were discovered on a beach in Jensen Bay by Morry Isenberg. Four of the coins were later identified as Dutch doits dating from 1690 to the 1780s while five with Arabic inscriptions were identified as being from the Kilwa Sultanate of east Africa. 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 1605-6 and History of Australia (1606–1787).)[4]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ [3]
  4. ^ Jonathan Gornall, Were the African coins found in Australia from a wrecked Arab dhow?, The National, 29 May 2013. Retrieved 24 June 2013

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