The Bass Strait is a channel between Tasmania and the mainland of Australia, particularly the country’s south-eastern state, Victoria. There are different views concerning the location of the Bass Strait. The general location is between the Indian and the Pacific Oceans. The IHO 1953 draft lists the strait as a portion of the Indian Ocean although some authorities believe the strait should be in the Pacific Ocean. Australian authorities claim the strait as part of Australia close to the Tasman Sea. The strait took the name of the Australian explorer, George Bass, who circumnavigated the strait between 1789 and 1799 together with Matthew Flinders.
Bass Strait’s Geography
The Bass Strait has a length of 310 miles and an approximately 155 miles wide with the widest part being between Point Hicks and Cape Portland at about 217 miles. There is a shallow depression at the Bass Strait’s center with an area of more than 25,097 square miles measuring 249 miles long and 75 miles wide. Navigation charts indicate the maximum depth at 509 feet, between Flinders and Inner Sister. Paleozoic granite makes up the basement of two plateaus in the Bass Strait that separates the Bass Basin from the adjoining ocean basins.
Maritime History and Natural Resources
The strait experiences strong currents from the Indian and Pacific Oceans waters, which create powerful storm waves. The English Channel in Western Europe is half as wide and half as rough as the Bass Strait. The combination of sea conditions and wind, together with many semi-submerged reefs and rocks, has caused the disappearance of many vessels. In the earlier years of the 19th century, the strait served as the safest and less rowdy ship passage to Sydney from Europe and India saving 700 nautical miles of travel. The Bass Strait’s eastern section has numerous fields of oil and gas. The gas processing plants and oil refineries at Geelong, Altona, Longford, and Western Port get the oil and gas through a pipeline, while a tanker transports the resources to New South Wales. In early 2017, the Hazelwood Power Station closed down, and by June, the Victorian Government set up a plan to have an offshore wind farm that would deliver about 8,000GWh of electricity to the State of Victoria.
Islands and Protected Areas
The Bass Strait has more than 50 islands. Major islands include King Island and Hunter Island on the western portion and Clarke Island, Flinders Island and Sister Island Groups in the southeastern section. The northeastern part of the strait has Deal Island and Hogan Island among others. Numerous Commonwealth marine reserves exist on the Bass Strait including Flinders, Franklin, Zeehan, and Apollo.
Infrastructure In the Bass Strait
Two passenger and vehicle ferries service the domestic sea route between Melbourne’s Station Pier and Devonport daily. Air transport is the cheapest and fastest method used in crossing the Bass Strait, with Virgin Airlines and Jetstar Airways being the leading airlines. Telstra-operated fiber optic cables connect Tasmania to the Australian mainland supporting communication. Other submarine communications cables have been used with some failing shortly after being established. One of the failed ones includes the first submarine cable in 1859 which failed in 1861.