Last year, I commenced a private study of the islands of Spencer Gulf, tenuously justified as background research on my forthcoming documentary film, Cuttlefish Country. I was struck by the number and diversity of inshore and offshore islands located there- from the sandy shoals of Curlew Island opposite the power station at Port Augusta in the north, to the rugged granite outcrops of the Neptune Islands beyond the mouth of the Gulf.
Some of these islands were declared conservation parks in their own rights, (Tumby Island, Lipson Island, Bird Islands), some fell within the boundaries of greater National Parks (those within the Lincoln and Innes National parks) while others were partially or wholly privately owned or leased (Louth Island, Thistle Island and others in southern Spencer Gulf).
I believe it is fair to say that the majority of these islands are seldom visited and poorly surveyed- something I hope MLSSA’s membership can remedy in the years ahead.
After disseminating many of my discoveries through creating corresponding Wikipedia pages, my study scope expanded as I searched for islands along Kangaroo Island’s coast. Here I found the Busby and Beatrice Islets and their corresponding conservation parks, Casuarina Islets (also known as The Brothers), Paisley Islet (off the west coast), Pelorus Islet (south east of Cape Gantheaume), Nobby Islet (near Seal Bay) and a number of islands within Pelican Lagoon.
Then, on a recent visit to Kangaroo Island, I sighted from the rocks at Hanson Bay another granite island between Hanson Bay and Cape Younghusband. I am yet to find any map which names this islet, though I’m confident informal names would exist, used by local fishermen. You can see the island at the top of this article.
I used several online mapping tools to initially scan the coast for islands, islets and their names. Google Earth was useful initially, but rarely provided names for the smaller islands and islets. Then I discovered the more data rich Property Location Browser courtesy of the SA Government. By switching on the website’s ‘Place names (gazetteer)’ layer I made a surprising revelation. Two of the islands I had noted, including the one I had sighted to the south-west of Hanson Bay, were not formally recorded in the State government’s Gazette.
I obtained the name for the second ungazetted island from a brochure from the Department of the Environment on Innes National Park. It clearly named the three islands located in Pondalowie Bay. These it named (from northernmost to southernmost) somewhat unimaginatively North Island, Middle Island and South Island. In the Gazetteer, South Island was left unnamed, and North Island appeared as Royston Island, with no mention of North Island as an alternative name.
Evidently, some limited biodiversity studies have been made of SA’s offshore islands, as evidenced by this report from 1996. It collates data from surveys conducted between 1971 and 1982… but eighteen years after publication, what has transpired since? It is also unclear if these studies included intertidal and subtidal surveys.
What surprises lie waiting for MLSSA members to discover in the waters around these islands?
I have sent follow-up emails to several people and organisations on Kangaroo Island in the hopes of determining the name for the Hanson Bay/Cape Younghusband islet, and preparing a case for having it gazetted… along with South Island in Pondalowie Bay. Considering South Australia has over 150 offshore islands in total, the west coast of Eyre Peninsula, the Great Australian Bight and South East regions remain to be scanned by any other interested satellite island hoppers and are bound to yield many more surprises.