Kangaroo Island is Australia's third largest island - after Tasmania and Melville Island. It is 112 kilometres southwest of Adelaide at the entrance of Gulf Saint Vincent. At its closest point to the mainland, it is offshore from Cape Jervis, on the tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula in the state of South Australia. The island is long and between and wide, its area covering . Its coastline is 540 km long and highest altitude is . It is separated from Yorke Peninsula to the northwest by Investigator Strait and from Cape Jervis to the northeast by Backstairs Passage.
Kangaroo Island was separated from mainland Australia by a rise in sea level about 9,000 years ago. Stone tools found suggest that Aboriginal people occupied the land at least 11,000 years ago; it is supposed that they disappeared in 200 BC. Theories about the cause include disease and inbreeding, warfare, climatic change or exodus.
In 1802 British explorer Matthew Flinders named the land "Kanguroo (sic) Island after landing near Kangaroo Head on the north coast of Dudley Peninsula. He was closely followed by the French explorer Nicolas Baudin, who mapped much of the island (which is why so many areas have French names). Although the French and the English were at war at the time, the men met peacefully. They both used the fresh water seeping at what is now known as Hog Bay near Frenchman's Rock; the community is now called Penneshaw.
An unofficial community of sealers and others was set up on Kangaroo Island from 1802 to the time of South Australia's official settlement in 1836. The sealers were rough men and several kidnapped Aboriginal women from Tasmania and mainland South Australia. The women were forced to do the work of sealers, amongst other activities. Three Aboriginal women tried to escape and swim back to the mainland; one is on record as having survived the journey.
The biggest town on Kangaroo Island is Kingscote. Originally established at Reeves Point on 27 July 1836, it is South Australia's first official European settlement. It was later suggested that Kingscote could serve as the capital of South Australia, but the island's resources were insufficient to support such a large community, so the settlement of Adelaide was chosen.
Penneshaw, the second largest town on Kangaroo Island, has a population of around 300, and is located on the north eastern tip of the Dudley Peninsula, on the eastern end of the island. It is home to the ferry terminal which brings most of the visitors to the island, along with all the necessary freight to sustain the local population. Parndana is the third largest town on Kangaroo Island, and is home to a population of around 150, however most of this population do not live in the town, they are sprawled within a few kilometres. The historic area to the south-east of the township, known as the Research Centre to locals, is home to the research station that was set up in the 1940s and 1950s to research the viability of agriculture in the area, and is still home to a small settlement of about 20 people. American River is the fourth largest town on the Island and is home to about 120 residents. Penneshaw, Parndana and American River have very basic facilities, including a general store and fuel, however only Kingscote, Parndana and Penneshaw are home to hotels. Facilities such as banking and large supermarkets are only available in Kingscote.
The economy is mostly agricultural (wine, honey, wool, meat and grain). Traditionally sheep grazing has been the key element in agriculture on the Island, however in recent times, more diverse crops, such as potatoes and canola have been introduced. Cattle farming has grown as well, with good quality beef cattle being grown in the higher rainfall areas. Tourism and fishing also play significant roles, with the island experiencing over 140,000 visitors per annum, and some of the best southern rock lobster being sourced from the island's rugged south coast. Kangaroo Island has South Australia's only eucalyptus oil distillery with oil distilled from the endemic Kangaroo Island Narrow Leaf Mallee.
The island also has 28 wine growers. The first vineyard was planted at Eastern Cove in 1976 and the first wine made in 1982. This was blended with Tolleys Barossa wine and sold from the cellar door of Eastern Cove Wine as KI-Barossa blend. The Florance vineyard was established under supervision of B. Hayes of Eastern Cove, who produced its first wine - Eastern Cove Cygnet - and introduced it at the University of South Australia, 1990. The wine carried a Kangaroo Island appellation label as first wine 100% of the region.
Kangaroo Island is famous for its honey and for being the oldest bee sanctuary in the world. Ligurian bees were imported from the Italian province of Liguria in 1881, and Kangaroo Island now has the only pure strain in the world. As a consequence, the importation to Kangaroo Island of bees or any honey products is prohibited.
The Kangaroo Island Council has released a draft General Development Plan Amendment, the first major review of planning issues since 1996. Additionally, a draft Heritage Development Plan Amendment has been simultaneously released for public comment. Over one hundred places have been suggested for inclusion on a Local Heritage register. Inclusion of a place on the register requires council approval for various proposed improvements that may be considered.
From 1907 until 1961, Karatta was the prime freight and passenger vessel operating between Port Adelaide and Kingscote.
Following withdrawal from service of Karatta, RW. Miller operated the M.V. Troubridge, in later years as a joint venture with the South Australian Government. M.V. Troubridge was a roll on, roll off vessel of 1996 tons, which utilised specially designed loading gantries at Port Adelaide, Port Lincoln and Kingscote.
M.V. Troubridge operated until 1st June 1987, when it was replaced by the Government run AU$23 million Island Seaway. Built locally in Port Adelaide by Eglo Engineering, Island Seaway utilised the same loading platforms as Troubridge. Island Seaway was severely criticised as being unsuitable for the Backstairs Passage crossing. Seventy-five sheep and cattle died on the inaugural trip due to carbon monoxide poisoning, and the ship was once described as 'steering like a shopping trolley'. The vessel subsequently underwent a AU$1 million refit of its propulsion system in September 1989 which improved its reliability.
Island Seaway began to experience competition from Kangaroo Island SeaLink which began services from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw in the 1980s. SeaLink acquired the ferry service originally introduced by Peter March. His "Philanderer Ferries" pioneered the crossing from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw, with Philanderer 3 being a passenger and vehicle carrying catamaran style vessel. During the 1980s, two passenger only services, Hydroflite H33, and Islander, operated for a short time from Glenelg to Kingscote.
SeaLink has outlasted several competing companies since it began operations. Boat Torque, a Western Australian company, operated Superflyte from 1994 until 1997, sailing from Glenelg to Kingscote. Kangaroo Island Ferries had a short-lived venture with SeaWay, which travelled from Wirrina Cove to Kingscote from September 2004 until February 2005. SeaWay could not handle rough weather as well as SeaLink vessels which impacted the service's reliability. Under different proprietorship, SeaWay recommenced services in August 2007. However, in May 2008, the operator of SeaWay announced suspension of services until October 2008, citing increased fuel prices. In June 2008 the SeaWay's operating company was placed in administration and the vessel advertised for sale.
With the introduction by SeaLink of the Island Navigator, the fate of Island Seaway was sealed, with the service subsequently withdrawn and SeaLink drawing on Government subsidies to operate all freight services to and from the Island. SeaLink now holds a virtual monopoly on sea transport to Kangaroo Island, primarily due to its long term lease of the Cape Jervis berth. Sealink's agreement with the SA Government, expiring in 2024, precludes other operators from utilising the Cape Jervis facility for one hour before, and one hour after any scheduled SeaLink service. Kangaroo Island residents have expressed displeasure with the exclusive arrangement granted to SeaLink.
Guinea Airways operated the first commercial service to Kangaroo Island, commencing in the 1930s. In 1959, the airline was acquired by Airlines of South Australia (ASA), a subsidiary of Ansett Airlines. The airline's final service was on 4 April 1986. ASA primarily operated Convairs, Douglas DC-3 and Fokker F-27 aircraft. A Piaggio P166 was used infrequently in the 1970s, whilst Rossair operated Cessna 402's in an arrangement with ASA to replace the F27's in off-peak times.
Following the withdrawal of ASA, Kendell Airlines (another Ansett subsidiary), operated 19-seat Fairchild Metroliners and 34-seat SAAB aircraft to the Island. Upon Ansett's ultimate demise in 2002, Regional Express (Rex) acquired the Kendell aircraft and continued services which are maintained today.
In competition with the larger aircraft, and generally with more flexible timetables, a succession of smaller airlines from the 1970s tried with varying success to maintain a 'second string' presence. Island Air and Pagas operated briefly in the 1970s, whilst the most successful, Emu Airways, commenced in 1980 and made its final flight in November 2005. Emu flew Piper Chieftain aircraft to Kingscote, American River, Penneshaw and Parndana, before air regulations dictated abandonment of all airstrips except Kingscote. Air Kangaroo Island (formerly Air Transit), flew Cessna 402's to the Island during the 1990s. Keith Stevens operated Albatross Airlines for much of the 1980s and early 1990s.
From 1986 to 1990, Lloyd Aviation operated Embraer EMB 110 Bandeirante aircraft, before flying the Irish-made Short 330. For several years during the 1980s, Commodore Airlines (eventually becoming State Air) offered another alternative service. QantasLink briefly operated a service after the demise of Emu Airways, commencing 18 December 2005, but withdrew less than six months later. QantasLink also operated direct flights from Kangaroo Island to Melbourne, the first time the route was operated.
In January 2007 Air South commenced four services daily using Titan nine-seater aircraft.
More than half of the island has never been cleared of vegetation , and a quarter of it is conserved in National Parks, Conservation Parks, and five Wilderness Protection Areas . The main protected areas are:
Because of its isolation from mainland Australia, foxes and rabbits are absent, from the island, and are prohibited from entry. Registration and microchipping of cats is mandatory. The Kangaroo Island Kangaroo, Rosenberg's Sand Goanna, Southern Brown Bandicoot, Tammar Wallaby, Common Brushtail Possum, Short-beaked Echidna and New Zealand Fur Seal are native to the island, as well as six bat and frog species. The sole endemic (found nowhere else) vertebrate species is a small marsupial carnivore called the Kangaroo Island Dunnart. The Koala, Common Ringtail Possum and Platypus have been introduced and still survive there. Kangaroo Island had a native species of Emu, the Kangaroo Island Emu; however, it became extinct between 1802 and official European settlement in 1836, perhaps owing to bushfires or from hunting by sealers or whalers.
The introduced Koalas have flourished on the island, to the degree that their preferred food source, the Manna Gum, is currently at risk of extinction. Koalas have recently been forced to turn to other, less palatable, species. Management methods used include surgical sterilisation and transfer to suitable empty mainland sites. This does not appear to be keeping up with the breeding rate, though, so the only practical solution may be culling. The government is opposed to this though, fearing an economic backlash through tourism boycotts.
Lightning strikes on Thursday 6th December 2007 caused several fires on the Island. Before being contained on 16th December 2007, over 90,000 hectares (or 20% of the Island) had been burnt, principally within National Park and Conservation Reserves. The most serious outbreak occurred in Flinders Chase, with 63,000 hectares (or 85% of the total Park area) having been burnt.
Kangaroo Island is one of South Australia's most popular tourist attractions, attracting over 140,000 visitors each year, with international visitors accounting for more than 25% of these visits. Some of the most popular tourist spots are:
Numerous ships have been wrecked on the Kangaroo Island coastline, the largest being Portland Maru of 5865 tons, which sank at Cape Torrens on 20th March 1935. The greatest loss of life occurred with the wreck of Loch Sloy on 24th April 1899 at Maurpetius Bay, when 31 persons were drowned, and one initial survivor subsequently perished. 28 persons were drowned at West Bay in September 1905, when Loch Vennachar was wrecked.
The first lighthouse built in South Australia was erected at Cape Willoughby in 1852. Cape Borda lighthouse was built in 1858, whilst the Cape du Couedic lighthouse was erected in 1906. All lighthouses continue to be operational.
Safe swimming is possible on the northern beaches, such as Emu Bay, Stokes Bay or Snelling Beach, and at Island Beach on the Dudley Peninsula. The south coast has dangerous undertows and is more suitable for stronger and experienced swimmers only.
Kangaroo Island has several organised sporting competitions, including Australian rules football (see Kangaroo Island Football League), cricket, darts, go kart racing, lawn bowls, netball, sailing, softball, squash and tennis.
The winters between June and September are mild and wet, the summers usually warm and dry. Tempered by the ocean, particularly on the coastline, maximum temperatures in summer rarely exceed 35 degrees Celsius. Average temperatures in August range between 13 to 16 degrees and in February, the hottest month, between 20 and 25 degrees. Between May and September the island receives 2/3 of its annual rainfall, varying from 450 mm in Kingscote to around 900 mm near Roo Lagoon on the top of the central plateau. The wettest month is July.
Australia tackles a cute conundrum: Koalas are endangered in parts of northern Australia. But on Kangaroo Island they're multiplying and destroying the trees.(World)(A Letter From Kangaroo Island)(Australia)
Jul 18, 2000; As a boy on his family's farm, Andrew Kelly used to revel in spotting koalas. "It'd be quite a novelty to see one," he recalled....