The archipelago consists of 42 rocks, islets and islands off the Pilbara coast. Initial impressions of the landscape are formed by the deep red rock
boulders. The rocks are actually blue-gray in colour but as the minerals in the rock (including a high proportion of iron) are exposed to the weather, the rocks turn
red as the minerals oxidise. This means that the rocks are actually rusting.
The largest island in the group is the Burrup Peninsula. Most people don't recognise it as an island because of the causeway built to connect it to the mainland in the 1960s.
The peninsula contains one of the largest rock art collections in the world with over 10,000 Aboriginal engravings scattered over about 1,000 different sites. Industrial
development on the peninsula has been a concern due to the cultural significance of the area but much of the rock art has remained undisturbed.
William Dampier visited the area in 1699, landing on an island he named
Rosemary after a plant he found growing there that reminded him of the herb.
In 1861 F.T. Gregory explored the area over a period of five months.
His report encouraged settlement of the area and the development of a pastoral industry.
Another early industry was pearling. Luggers were based at Cossack and camps established on some of the islands. Remains of one such
camp can still be seen on Gidley Island.
In the early 1870s a whaling station was established on Malus Island and some of the original ovens and try pots are still there. Today whales are frequent visitors to the coast.
The beaches of the archipelago are important nesting sites for hawksbill, green, loggerhead and flat back turtles. The islands remain an important and relatively undisturbed
refuge for native flora and fauna. Although heavy industrial development has been part of the area and will continue to be so into the future, many of the islands remain almost
pristine and it has to be hoped that this will continue to be the case.
It isn't widely known but just offshore is one of the most diverse coral habitats in Western Australia. Over 200 hard coral species have been identified to date. The coral, seaweeds and
sea grasses combined with mangrove lined shores, make the archipelago an ideal habitat for many fish species.
The six species of mangrove that occur in the area make a safe nursery area for many of the 650 fish species.
Among the molluscs that inhabit the water is the Australian Trumpet. It is the world's largest living gastropod and can measure as much as a metre and weigh up to 18 kilograms!
Dugings, dolphins, four species of turtle, manta rays and whales are also well known inhabitants of these waters and on occasion huge swarms of pink jellyfish are sighted.
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