Barrow Island is a island located northwest off the coast of Western Australia.
Discovery and early history
Navigators had noted its existence since the early 1600s, 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 contains no evidence of Indigenous Australians. Until last century the island remained permanently un-inhabited mostly because of a lack of water. The island was used as an aboriginal slave trading station by the Dutch. Artifacts such as grinding stones that have been found are believed to be from this period.
Barrow Island is noted for its flat spinifex grasslands
spotted with termite
mounds. No exotic animals have been established and so many rare and endangered species have flourished.
Marine species occupying this habitat include green turtle
. Birds include the Barrow Island Black-and-white Fairy-wren (Malurus leucopterus edouardi
), an endemic
subspecies of the White-winged Fairy-wren
which is regarded as vulnerable
to extinction. Threats to the species have included rats, cats and other predators, nuclear weapons, and the nearby energy production facility. Other species such as perentie
(Australia's biggest lizard
), Barrow Island euro
, spectacled Hare-wallaby
, golden Bandicoot
and the Barrow Island mouse (Pseudomys nanus ferculinus)
are also present.
Limestone caves on Barrow Island support subterranean ecological communities. These include endemic and vulnerable species. Invertebrate species include Stygofauna, amphipod crustaceans, of Nedsia, Liagoceradocus and other genera. These mostly inhabit an anchialine system, a 'lens' of fresh water above the saline ground water, which they share with species such as Milyeringa veritas - the Blind gudgeon. Troglofauna have also been discovered within the cave systems; these include the schizomid Draculoides bramstokeri and perhaps the only troglobitic reptile - Ramphotyphlops longissimus.
Hydrogen sulphide produced by the 'Barrow fault' may sustain this diverse community through chemoautotrophic energy production.
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.
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.
In December 2006, a development consortium between the Australian subsidiaries of Chevron
received environmental approvals from the Government of Western Australia
to develop natural gas reserves 60km north of the island. Known as the Gorgon gas project
, it will become Australia's largest resource project, producing of gas.
- Butler, Harry, (1982)Barrow Island(written by Harry Butler and compiled by Jacqueline Cox with assistance of other Wapet staff). Perth, W.A : West Australian Petroleum Pty Ltd.