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Barrow Island (Western Australia) facts for kids

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Barrow Island
Geography
Location Indian Ocean, off the Pilbara coast of Western Australia
Area 202 km2 (78 sq mi)
Length 27 km (16.8 mi)
Width 11.5 km (7.15 mi)
Coastline 72 km (44.7 mi)
Administration
Australia

Barrow Island is a 202 km2 (78 sq mi) island 50 kilometres (31 mi) northwest off the Pilbara coast of Western Australia. The island is the second largest in Western Australia after Dirk Hartog Island.

Discovery and early history

Navigators had noted its existence since the early 17th century, and Nicholas Baudin sighted it in 1803, mistakenly believing it to be part of mainland Australia. Phillip Parker King named the island in 1816 after Sir John Barrow, a Secretary of the Admiralty and founder of the Royal Geographical Society.

The island was visited by indigenous Australians before and after its separation from the mainland, approximately 8000 years ago. Stone artefacts including several weathered flakes and fragments made of igneous and metamorphic rocks and chert were collected from Barrow Island in the 1960s. Thevenard Island also has evidence of Aboriginal visitation, and it is likely that the nearby Montebello Islands were utilized as well, however there have been no archaeological finds from these islands.

Whalers were known to operate in the area from about 1800 onwards. The first recorded visit by whalers was in 1842 with continued visits occurring until 1864. The island was used as a slave trading centre for Aborigines during the 1870s by Captain William Cadell until he was arrested and removed from the colony in 1876. Slave labour was used in the nearby mainland pearling industry.

Guano was found on the island and mining began in 1883. It was mined for the remainder of the 1880s and sold to markets in Perth.

Conservation

The Western Shield project has sought to reduce the impact of introduced species to the region. Corporate and state government cooperation on programs has produced studies into the little-known subterranean fauna of the island.

Energy reserves

Oil

Oil was discovered on the island in commercial quantities in 1964 by West Australian Petroleum Pty Ltd (WAPET), and the first oil field was established shortly after. In 1995, there were 430 wells producing oil and natural gas across most of the southern half of the island. The site has been Australia's leading producer of oil.

Oil tankers are filled by a submarine pipeline that extends 10 km offshore. WAPET established a 200-room apartment complex for workers on the island. A private airport facility known as Barrow Island Airport (IATA: BWBICAO: YBWX) was also established to transport workers and equipment from Karratha and Perth.

Gas

In December 2009, a development consortium between the Australian subsidiaries of Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell received environmental approvals from the Government of Western Australia to develop natural gas reserves 60 km north of the island. Known as the Gorgon gas project, it is currently under construction (Jan 2012) and will become Australia's largest resource project, mining 40 trillion cubic feet (1,100 km3) of gas from about early 2015.

Climate

Climate data for Barrow Island Airport, 1999-2013
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 33.3
(91.9)
33.4
(92.1)
33.1
(91.6)
31.1
(88)
27.5
(81.5)
24.2
(75.6)
23.7
(74.7)
25.1
(77.2)
26.7
(80.1)
29.3
(84.7)
30.4
(86.7)
32.0
(89.6)
29.1
(84.4)
Average low °C (°F) 26.0
(78.8)
26.2
(79.2)
26.5
(79.7)
24.5
(76.1)
21.2
(70.2)
18.6
(65.5)
17.5
(63.5)
17.8
(64)
19.3
(66.7)
21.6
(70.9)
22.8
(73)
24.3
(75.7)
22.2
(72)
Precipitation mm (inches) 24.8
(0.976)
57.1
(2.248)
56.4
(2.22)
41.8
(1.646)
55.4
(2.181)
38.8
(1.528)
12.8
(0.504)
3.0
(0.118)
0.8
(0.031)
2.5
(0.098)
2.0
(0.079)
6.6
(0.26)
308.7
(12.154)
Avg. rainy days (≥ 1 mm) 2.1 2.5 2.6 1.4 2.3 1.9 1.1 0.5 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.4 15.1
Source: Australian Bureau of Meteorology

Highest wind record

The World Meteorological Organization established Barrow Island as the location of the highest non-tornado related wind gust at 408 km/h (253 mph). The gust occurred on 10 April 1996, during Severe Tropical Cyclone Olivia and is documented in the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Journal. The previous record was a 372 km/h (231 mph) gust at Mount Washington, New Hampshire, USA in April 1934.

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