Shark Bay's History

The Maritime Exploration of Shark Bay

Shark Bay has a long history of visits by European explorers. Indeed, Dirk Hartog’s landing at Cape Inscription in October 1616 was the first recorded landing of Europeans in Western Australia. While Hartog’s visit may have been accidental – his ship Eendracht was blown off course en route to Batavia (Jakarta, Indonesia) – it marked the beginning of a series of expeditions to reveal ‘Terra Australia Incognita’, the unknown south land.

Studies and collections made by explorers of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries represent some of the earliest scientific records of Australia’s people, landscape, flora and fauna. The charts made on these expeditions also helped put Australia, quite literally, on the map!

Many of Shark Bay’s islands, bays and other landmarks are named after these explorers. Who were these brave and resourceful people, and what did they do? Where did they come from, and what happened to them? Click on the timeline to discover more than 200 years of European exploration.

Shark Bay Maritime History Timeline DirkHartog WillemdeVlamingh Dampier StAlouran Baudin Freycinet Denham

Unfortunately, some seafarers never made it back to port. Shark Bay is the grave of more than a dozen ships, dating as early as 1712. Discover the stories of some historic shipwrecks here.

You can learn more about Shark Bay’s cultural heritage at the Shark Bay World Heritage Discovery Centre in Denham.