Exmouth is a town on the tip of the North West Cape in Western Australia. The town is located north of the state capital Perth and southwest of Darwin.
The town was established in 1964 to support the nearby United States Naval Communication Station Harold E. Holt. Beginning in the late 1970s, the town began hosting U.S. Air Force personnel assigned to Learmonth Solar Observatory, a defence science facility jointly operated with Australia's Ionospheric Prediction Service.
The location was first used as a military base in World War II
James F. Calvert in his memoir, Silent Running: My Years on a World War II Attack Submarine
, and Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood
in Sink 'Em All
, his narrative of Allied submarine warfare
, describe its history. After the retreat from Java in March 1942, Allied naval forces had need of a forward base for replenishing submarines, then the sole form of offensive warfare against the Japanese. Both Darwin, Northern Territory
, and Broome, Western Australia
, were too exposed to air attack, so a 500-ton unmotorized lighter was placed as refueling barge near the mouth of Exmouth Gulf, where the Allies were already maintaining a seaplane tender
Code-named Potshot, the spartan base was also developed as an advanced base and rest camp for submariners using the tender USS Pelias. An airfield (now RAAF Learmonth) was constructed to provide fighter defense for the base. Z Special Unit used Potshot as a staging base for Operation Jaywick in September 1943.
Nowadays the town relies more on tourism than the station for its existence. At the 2006 census
, Exmouth had a population of 1,995. At the height of the tourist season the population swells to 6000.
Exmouth is one of the few areas in Australia that can boast the "Range to Reef" experience. The Cape Range National Park which has some spectacular gorges is an area of 506 square kilometres and its main area is focused on the west coast of the Cape which provides a large variety of camp sites on the coastal fringe of the Park.
On 22 March 1999, Tropical Cyclone Vance reached category 5 status as it made landfall near Exmouth. This resulted in the highest ever wind gust reported on the Australian mainland of 267 km/h at Learmonth, only 35 km to the south.
Vance caused significant flooding and property damage but there were no deaths.
See article: Exmouth Gulf
- Western Australia. Ministry for Planning.(1998) Exmouth-Learmonth (North West Cape) structure plan. Perth, W.A. : Western Australian Planning Commission. ISBN 0730990079 (The draft Structure Plan for Exmouth-Learmonth (North West Cape) has been prepared by the Ministry for Planning under the guidance and direction of the Gascoyne Coast Planning Coordinating Committee (GCPCC) and the North West Cape Technical Advisory Group)