Bass Strait

From Academic Kids

Bass Strait is a sea strait separating Tasmania from the south of the Australian mainland (Victoria in particular). It was discovered by Europeans in 1798 by Matthew Flinders. Flinders named it after his ship's doctor George Bass.

Approximately 240 km wide at its narrowest point and generally only around 50 metres deep, it was almost dry during the last ice age. It contains many islands, with King Island and Flinders Island home to substantial human settlements.

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. In 1859 the Wilsons Promontory Lighthouse was completed, helping to protect shipping passing that point.

Strong currents between the Antarctic driven Southern Ocean and Tasman Sea 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 ship wrecks on the Tasmanian and Victorian coastlines number in the hundreds, although stronger metal ships and modern marine navigation have dropped the danger sharply.

Natural Resources

A number of gas fields exist in Bass Strait. The eastern field was discovered in the 1960s and is located about 50km off the coast of Gippsland. The gas is sent via a pipeline to refineries at Altona and Geelong, as well as by tanker to New South Wales. The western field was discovered in the 1990s 10km offshore near Port Campbell. Its exploitation is due to begin in 2005.


The fastest and cheapest method of travel across Bass Strait is by air. The main carriers are Qantas, JetStar, and Virgin Blue. Major airports include the Hobart International Airport and Launceston Airport; the smaller airports are serviced by Regional Express who generally fly only to Melbourne and the Bass Strait islands.

The domestic sea route is being serviced by three Spirit of Tasmania passenger/vehicle ferries, all based in Devonport, Tasmania. Two travel the Melbourne route, and one to Sydney.

See Transportation in Tasmania for more details.


The first submarine 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 140 nm
1869-?  ?  ? Henley's Telegraph Works
Australian Govt
System 176 nm
1885-?  ?  ? Telcon
Australian Government
1909-1943  ?  ? Siemens Bros
Australian Government
System 285 nm.
Was reused at Torres Strait
1935-?  ?  ? Siemens Bros
Australian Government
First telephone cable
1995- Sandy Point Boat Harbour ASN First fibre optic cable
2003- Inverloch Stanley ASN Calais
2005- Woy Woy Bell Bay Basslink First electrical distribution cable

de:Bass-Strae et:Bassi vin ja:バス海峡


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