Map of Australia with Bass Strait marked in light blue
|Location||Indian Ocean–Pacific Ocean|
|Max. length||500 kilometres (310 mi)|
|Max. width||350 kilometres (220 mi)|
|Average depth||60 metres (200 ft)|
|Max. depth||155 m (509 ft)|
Some authorities consider the strait to be part of the Pacific Ocean as in the never-approved 2002 IHO Limits of Oceans and Seas draft. In the currently in-force IHO 1953 draft, it is instead listed as part of the Indian Ocean.
The Australian Hydrographic Service does not consider it to be part of the Southern Ocean, using the expanded Australian definition, and states that it lies with the Tasman Sea. The strait between the Furneaux Islands and Tasmania is Banks Strait, a subdivision of Bass Strait.
The strait was probably detected by Captain Abel Tasman when he charted Tasmania's coast in 1642. On 5 December, Tasman was following the east coast northward to see how far it went. When the land veered to the north-west at Eddystone Point, he tried to keep in with it but his ships were suddenly hit by the Roaring Forties howling through Banks Strait. Tasman was on a mission to find the Southern Continent, not more islands, so he abruptly turned away to the east and continued his continent hunting.
The next European to enter the strait was Captain James Cook in the Endeavour in April 1770. A talented and diligent hydrographer, Cook quickly identified the strait, but knew he had to conceal it. He was working during the period of intense Anglo-French rivalry that filled the twelve years between Britain's success in the Seven Years' War and France's revanche in the American Revolutionary War . The Admiralty had issued its usual verbal instructions to hide strategically important discoveries that could become security risks, such as off-shore islands from which operations could be mounted by a hostile power.
Consequently, in his journal Cook disguised his discovery with a riddle; and on his chart he drew a curtain across the truncated channel by sketching a false coastline down to an invented Point Hicks. Cook's ploy worked and Tasmania's insularity was suppressed for three more decades. When news of the 1798 discovery of Bass Strait reached Europe, the French government despatched a reconnaissance expedition commanded by Nicolas Baudin. This prompted Governor King to send two vessels from Sydney to the island to establish a garrison at Hobart.
The strait was named after George Bass, after he and Matthew Flinders passed through it while circumnavigating Van Diemen's Land (now named Tasmania) in the Norfolk in 1798–99. At Flinders' recommendation, the Governor of New South Wales, John Hunter, in 1800 named the stretch of water between the mainland and Van Diemen's Land "Bass's Straits". Later it became known as Bass Strait.
The existence of the strait had been suggested in 1797 by the master of Sydney Cove when he reached Sydney after deliberately grounding his foundering ship and being stranded on Preservation Island (at the eastern end of the strait). He reported that the strong south westerly swell and the tides and currents suggested that the island was in a channel linking the Pacific and southern Indian Ocean. Governor Hunter thus wrote to Joseph Banks in August 1797 that it seemed certain a strait existed.
Bass Strait is approximately 250 km (160 mi) wide and 500 km (310 mi) long, with an average depth of 60 m (200 ft). The widest opening is about 350 km between Cape Portland on the North-Eastern tip of Tasmania and Point Hicks on the Australian mainland. Jennings’ study of the submarine topography of Bass Strait described the bathymetric Bass Basin, a shallow depression approximately 120 km (70 mi) wide and 400 km (250 mi) long (over 65,000 km2 [25,000 sq mi] in area) in the centre of Bass Strait, a maximum depth is the channel between Inner Sister and Flinders, which navigation charts indicate reaches 155 m (510 ft). Two plateaus, the Bassian Rise and King Island Rise located on the eastern and western margins of Bass Strait, respectively, are composed of a basement of Palaeozoic granite. These features form sills separating Bass Basin from the adjacent ocean basins. Associated with the less than 50 m (160 ft) deep Bassian Rise is the Furneaux Islands, the largest of which is Flinders Island (maximum elevation 760 m [2,490 ft]). The surface of the King Island Rise also occurs in water depths of less than 50 m (160 ft), and includes the shallow (40 m [130 ft]) Tail Bank at its northern margin as well as King Island itself. Subaqueous dunes (sandwaves) and tidal current ridges and subaqueous dunes cover approximately 6,000 km2 (2,300 sq mi) of the seabed in Bass Strait.
During Pleistocene low sea level stands the central basin of Bass Strait was enclosed by raised sills forming a large shallow lake. This occurred during the last glacial maximum (18,000 BP) when the basin was completely isolated. Sea level rise during the marine transgression flooded the basin, forming a marine embayment from 11,800 BP to 8700 BP and the basin rim was completely flooded by about 8000 BP, at which point Bass Strait was formed and Tasmania became a separate island.
Like the rest of the waters surrounding Tasmania, and particularly because of its limited depth, it is notoriously rough, with many ships lost there during the 19th century. A lighthouse was erected on Deal Island in 1848 to assist ships in the eastern part of the Straits, but there were no guides to the western entrance until the Cape Otway Lighthouse was first lit in 1848, followed by another at Cape Wickham at the northern end of King Island in 1861.
Strong currents between the Antarctic-driven southeast portions of the Indian Ocean and the Tasman Sea's Pacific Ocean waters provide a strait of powerful, wild storm waves. To illustrate its wild strength, Bass Strait is both twice as wide and twice as rough as the English Channel. The shipwrecks on the Tasmanian and Victorian coastlines number in the hundreds, although stronger metal ships and modern marine navigation have greatly reduced the danger.
Many vessels, some quite large, have disappeared without a trace, or left scant evidence of their passing. Despite myths and legends of piracy, wrecking and alleged supernatural phenomena akin to those of the Bermuda Triangle, such disappearances can be invariably ascribed to treacherous combinations of wind and sea conditions, and the numerous semi-submerged rocks and reefs within the Straits.
Despite the strait's difficult waters, it provided a safer and less boisterous passage for ships on the route from Europe or India to Sydney in the early 19th century. The strait also saved 1,300 km (700 nmi) on the voyage.
There are over 50 islands in Bass Strait. Major islands include:
South eastern section:
North eastern section:
Within Bass Strait there are several Commonwealth marine reserves, which are all are part of the South-east Network. The two larger reserves, Flinders and Zeehan, extend mostly outside of the Bass Strait area.
The smaller islands of Bass Strait typically have some form of protection status. Most notably the Kent Group National Park covers the Kent Group islands of Tasmania, as well as the surrounding state waters which is a dedicated marine reserve. The national park is wholly contained by the Beagle Commonwealth Marine Reserve.
Victoria has several marine national parks in Bass Strait, and are all adjacent to the mainland coastline:
A number of oil and gas fields exist in the eastern portion of Bass Strait, in what is known as the Gippsland Basin. Most large fields were discovered in the 1960s, and are located about 50 to 65 km (30 to 40 mi) off the coast of Gippsland in water depths of about 70 m (230 ft).:484 These oil fields include the Halibut Field discovered in 1967, the Cobia Field discovered in 1972, the Kingfish Field, the Mackerel Field, and the Fortescue Field discovered in 1978.:484 Large gas fields include the Whiptail field, the Barracouta Field, the Snapper Field, and the Marlin Field.:484 Oil and gas are produced from the Cretaceous-Eocene clastic rocks of the Latrobe Group, deposited with the break-up of Australia and Antarctica.:485
The western field, known as the Otway Basin, was discovered in the 1990s offshore near Port Campbell. Its exploitation began in 2005.
In June 2017, the Government of Victoria announced a three-year feasibility study for Australia's first offshore wind farm. The project, which could have 250 wind turbines within a 574 km2 (222 sq mi) area, is projected to deliver around 8,000 GWh of electricity, representing some 18 per cent of Victoria's power usage and replacing a large part of the output of Hazelwood Power Station, which was closed in early 2017.
The fastest and often the cheapest method of travel across Bass Strait is by air. The major airports in Tasmania are Hobart International Airport and Launceston Airport, where the main airlines are Jetstar Airways and Virgin Australia. Qantas and Tiger Airways Australia also operate services. The smaller airports in the north of the state and on the islands in the strait are served either by Regional Express Airlines, QantasLink or King Island Airlines.
The domestic sea route is serviced by two Spirit of Tasmania passenger vehicle ferries, based in Devonport, Tasmania. The ships travel daily in opposite directions between Devonport and Station Pier in Melbourne, as overnight trips with additional daytime trips during the peak summer season.
The first submarine communications cable across Bass Strait was laid in 1859. Starting at Cape Otway, Victoria, it went via King Island and Three Hummock Island, made contact with the Tasmanian mainland at Stanley Head, and then continued on to George Town. However it started failing within a few weeks of completion, and by 1861 it failed completely.
Other submarine cables include:
|Date||Northern end||Southern end||Companies
(Manufacturer / Operator)
|1859–1861||Cape Otway||Stanley Head||Henley's Telegraph Works
Tas & Vic Govts
|System 260 km (140 nmi)|
|1869-?||?||?||Henley's Telegraph Works
|System 326 km (176 nmi)|
|System 528 km (285 nmi)|
Was reused at Torres Strait
|1936||Apollo Bay||Stanley||Siemens Brothers
|First telephone cable, failed after only six months|
|1995-||Sandy Point||Boat Harbour||ASN
|First fibre optic cable|
|2005-||Loy Yang||Bell Bay||Basslink||First electrical transmission cable|
In 1978, one of the most famous UFO incidents in Australian history occurred over Bass Strait. Frederick Valentich was flying a small aeroplane over the strait when he reported to personnel at a local airport that a strange object was buzzing his plane. He then claimed that the object had moved directly in front of his plane; the airport personnel then heard a metallic "scraping" sound, followed by silence. Valentich and his plane subsequently vanished and neither Valentich nor his plane were ever seen again.
The issue of planes, ships and people having been lost in the strait over time has spawned a number of theories. Perhaps the most thorough list of losses and disappearances has been the oft reprinted book of Jack Loney though it is possible that most losses can be adequately explained by extreme weather events.
On the popular Australian soap Neighbours, one of its most dramatic storylines unfolded when a 1940s themed joy flight to Tasmania was sabotaged by a bomb. The plane crashed into Bass Strait in the middle of the night and many character's lives were put at risk, with some drowning.
Bass Strait is regularly crossed by sailing vessels, including during the annual Melbourne to Hobart Yacht Race. The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race passes generally east of the strait but is affected by its weather conditions. Australian Olympic bronze medalist Michael Blackburn set a record in March 2005 when he crossed the strait in just over 13 hours in a Laser sailing dinghy.
Lone rower David Bowen from Mount Martha crossed Bass Strait in 1971 rowing a 6.1 m (20 ft) dory, leaving from Devonport he landed on Wilson's Promontory. Tammy van Wisse swam part of the strait in 1996, from King Island to Apollo Bay in Victoria, a distance of about 100 km (60 mi) in 17 hours and 46 minutes. Rod Harris, Ian and Peter Richards are credited with the first kayak crossing in 1971. Many sea kayakers have since made the crossing, usually by island hopping on the eastern side of the strait. Fewer sea kayak crossings have been made via King Island, due to the 100 km (60 mi) leg between Cape Wickam and Apollo Bay. Andrew McAuley was the first person to cross Bass Strait non-stop in a sea kayak in 2003. He made two more crossings of Bass Strait before he died attempting to cross the Tasman Sea in February 2007. The first windsurfer crossing was in 1982 by Mark Paul and Les Tokolyi. Kitesurfers have also completed the crossing. The first crossing by paddleboard was made by Jack Bark, Brad Gaul and Zeb Walsh, leaving Wilsons Promontory in Victoria on 25 February 2014 and arriving at Cape Portland in northeastern Tasmania on 4 March 2014.
Media related to Bass Strait at Wikimedia Commons
The Albatross Island, part of the Hunter Island Group, is an 18-hectare (44-acre) island and nature reserve located in Bass Strait, that lies between north-west Tasmania and King Island, Australia.
The island is part of the Albatross Island and Black Pyramid Rock Important Bird Area that is notable for its breeding colony of 5,000 pairs of shy albatross, some 40% of the world population of the species.Battery Island
The Battery Island, part of the Passage Group within the Furneaux Group, is a 2-hectare (4.9-acre) granite island, located in Bass Strait south of Cape Barren Island, in Tasmania, in south-eastern Australia.Cat Island (Tasmania)
The Cat Island, part of the Babel Group within the Furneaux Group, is a 39-hectare (96-acre) unpopulated granite island, located in Bass Strait, lying off the east coast of Flinders Island, Tasmania, south of Victoria, in south-eastern Australia.Cat Island is part of the Babel Island Group Important Bird Area.Councillor Island
The Councillor Island, part of the New Year Group, is a 10.53-hectare (26.0-acre) granite island located in the Bass Strait, lying off the north-west coast of Tasmania, Australia.The island forms part of the King Island Important Bird Area because of its importance for breeding seabirds and waders.Deal Island (Tasmania)
Deal Island, the largest island of the Kent Group, is a 1,576-hectare (3,890-acre) granite island, located in northern Bass Strait, that lies between the Furneaux Group, north-east of Tasmania and Wilsons Promontory in Victoria, Australia.Doughboy Island (Tasmania)
The Doughboy Island, part of the Tin Kettle Group within the Furneaux Group, is a 30-hectare (74-acre) unpopulated mainly granite island, located in Bass Strait, lying west of the Flinders and Cape Barren islands, Tasmania, in south-eastern Australia.The island has been devastated by irresponsible farming practices and fire.Goat Island (Tasmania)
The Goat Island is a small and unpopulated granite island, located in the Bass Strait, lying off the north-west coast of Tasmania, Australia. The island is situated between Penguin and Ulverstone and can be walked to at low tide. It houses a breeding colony of little penguins.Along with the nearby Three Sisters, the island is part of the 37-hectare (91-acre) Three Sisters – Goat Island Nature Reserve.Hogan Group
The Hogan Group is a collection of six (to eight) islands and islets located in the Bass Strait that define part of the border between mainland Australia and the island state of Tasmania. Within the jurisdiction of Tasmania, the Hogan Group forms a land border between the states of Tasmania and Victoria. The island group is officially designated unallocated Crown land, within the Flinders Municipality in Tasmania and the South Gippsland Shire in Victoria.
The Hogan Group comprises the Hogan Island, Twin, Long, Round, East, Boundary (or North East) islets, and Seal Rock.Inner Little Goose Island
The Inner Little Goose Island, part of the Badger Group within the Furneaux Group, is a 4.5-hectare (11-acre) unpopulated small, round granite island, located in Bass Strait between Goose and Little Goose islands, lying west of the Flinders and Cape Barren islands, Tasmania, south of Victoria, in south-eastern Australia. The island is contained within a conservation area and is part of the Chalky, Big Green and Badger Island Groups Important Bird Area.Judgement Rocks
The Judgement Rocks, part of the Kent Group, is a small unpopulated 0.39-hectare (0.96-acre) granite islet and some associated bare rocks, located in the Bass Strait, lying off the north-east coast of Tasmania, between the Furneaux Group and Wilsons Promontory in Victoria, Australia. The islet and associated rocks are contained within the Kent Group National Park.
The rock was named by Matthew Flinders "from its resemblance to an elevated seat".Joanna Murray-Smith's novel Judgement Rock is named for the rocks and set among the islands of the Kent Group.Kent Group
The Kent Group are a grouping of six granite islands located in Bass Strait, north-west of the Furneaux Group in Tasmania, Australia. Collectively, the group is comprised within the Kent Group National Park.The islands were named Kent's Group by Matthew Flinders, "in honour of my friend captain William Kent, then commander of Supply" when Flinders passed them on 8 February 1798 in Francis (on her way to salvage Sydney Cove). The largest island in the group is Deal Island; the others, in order of descending size, are Erith Island, Dover Island, North East Isle, South West Isle and Judgement Rocks.King Island (Tasmania)
King Island is an island in the Bass Strait, belonging to the Australian state of Tasmania. It is the largest of three islands known as the New Year Group, and the second-largest island in Bass Strait (after Flinders Island). The island's population at the 2016 census was 1,585 people, up from 1,566 in 2011. The local government area of the island is the King Island Council.
The island forms part of the official land divide between the Great Australian Bight and Bass Strait, off the north-western tip of Tasmania and about halfway to the mainland state of Victoria. It is subject to the infamous Roaring Forties winds. The southernmost point is Stokes Point and the northernmost point is Cape Wickham. There are three small islands immediately offshore: New Year Island and Christmas Island situated to the northwest, and a smaller island Councillor Island to the east, opposite Sea Elephant Beach.King Island was first visited by Europeans in the late 18th century. It was named after Philip Gidley King, Colonial Governor of New South Wales, whose territory at the time included what is now Tasmania. Sealers established temporary settlements on the island in the early 19th century, but it was not until the 1880s that permanent settlements were established. The largest of these is Currie, situated on the island's west coast. Today, the island's economy is largely based on agriculture and tourism. It is also home to the Huxley Hill Wind Farm.List of islands of Tasmania
This is a list of islands of Tasmania, the smallest and southernmost state of Australia. The Tasmanian mainland itself is an island, with an area of 64,103 km2 (24,750 sq mi) - 94.1% of the total land area of the state of Tasmania. The eleven next largest islands have a combined area of 3,826 km2 (1,477 sq mi), for a cumulative total of 99.75% of the state. Over 300 smaller islands make up the remaining 173 km2 (67 sq mi) of total land area.Little Badger Island
The Little Badger Island, part of the Badger Group within the Furneaux Group, is a 2.5-hectare (6.2-acre) unpopulated low-lying granite island, located in Bass Strait, lying west of the Flinders and Cape Barren islands, Tasmania, south of Victoria, in south-eastern Australia.The island is contained within a nature reserve. The island is also part of the Chalky, Big Green and Badger Island Groups Important Bird Area.Little Goose Island
The Little Goose Island, part of the Badger Group within the Furneaux Group, is a 3.6-hectare (8.9-acre) unpopulated flat, round granite island, located in Bass Strait, lying west of the Flinders and Cape Barren islands, Tasmania, south of Victoria, in south-eastern Australia. The island is contained within a nature reserve and is part of the Chalky, Big Green and Badger Island Groups Important Bird Area.Long Islet (Tasmania)
The Long Islet, part of the Hogan Group, is a 22.85-hectare (56.5-acre) unpopulated long, narrow granite island, located in northern Bass Strait, lying north of the Furneaux Group in Tasmania and south of Wilsons Promontory in Victoria, in south-eastern Australia.Low Islets (Tasmania)
The Low Islets, part of the Passage Group within the Furneaux Group, is a close pair of unpopulated small granite islands with a combined area of 2 hectares (4.9 acres), located in Bass Strait, south of Cape Barren Island, and west of both Spike and Clarke islands, in Tasmania, in south-eastern Australia.Moriarty Rocks
The Moriarty Rocks, part of the Passage Group within the Furneaux Group, are a group of two major unpopulated granite rocks, and several smaller ones, with a combined area of 2.46 hectares (6.1 acres), located in Bass Strait, south of Cape Barren Island, west of the Low Islets, and west of the Spike and Clarke islands, in Tasmania, in south-eastern Australia. The rocks are contained within a nature reserve.North West Mount Chappell Islet
The North West Mount Chappell Islet, part of the Badger Group within the Furneaux Group, is a 7,100-square-metre (76,000 sq ft) unpopulated mainly granite islet, in Bass Strait, lying west of the Flinders and Cape Barren islands, Tasmania, south of Victoria, in south-eastern Australia. The island is located within a conservation area and is part of the Chalky, Big Green and Badger Island Groups Important Bird Area.