The Endeavour Strait is a 30-mile long canal located between Prince of Wales Island, which is the southern most point of the Torres Strait, and Cape York Peninsula in northern Queensland, Australia. The strait was named by James Cook in 1770 after his vessel, the Endeavour, while voyaging out of the Indian Ocean.
The Endeavour Strait is approximately two miles long from its northernmost point to the southernmost tip, and its depth varies between 13 and 15 meters. The strait's floor is carpeted with a relatively dense coral layer, making it safe for vessels to navigate. However, large sea vessels cannot use the strait because the western end, where it connects to the Arafura Sea, is blocked by a sand bank and has a depth of only 5.5 meters. Most vessels able to easily pass through the Endeavour Strait are small, in the 50-70 meter range, and only operate from Queensland ports through the innermost route of the Great Barrier Reef into the market ports located along the Gulf of Carpentaria and island of the Torres Strait.
The discovery of the Endeavour Strait dates back to Dutch navigators who traversed through the Australian waters in the 15th century. However, the impassable Endeavour Strait made it impossible for Dutch explorers to navigate to the eastern side of Australia. However, they were successful in exploring and mapping the west coast of Australia in the beginning of the 17th century after Willem Janszoon discovered Cape York Peninsula in 1606. 150 years later, the British overcame the sea barrier, navigated through the strait, and then discovered and mapped the eastern coast of Australia.
The nearest population along the Endeavour Strait is New Mapoon Island, which is located 16 km away from Queensland and has a total population of 330 people. The Aboriginal settlement was established in 1960 to host people who had been displaced from Torres Island. The people are of mixed tribes of the Torres Strait Islanders.
The shallow waters and sand barrier in the western end of the Endeavour Strait was responsible for the November 1844 wreckage of an American cutter that ran into the Madjii Reef located at the Horn Island, near Cape York. It is believed that all passengers on board died in the wreck, except Barbara Thompson, a 13-year old Scottish teen, who was saved by the Kaurareg people, a group of Torres Strait Islanders inhabiting Prince of Wales Island. Barbara was adopted by a clan elder who named her Gioma, a spiritual name of his daughter who has recently died. Barbara lived with the islanders for five years before being rescued at by HMS Rattlesnake, a British survey vessel, at Evans Bay. Navigators called for the strait to be expanded to enable better navigation. The heavy traffic of vessels in the innermost route of the strait has created major conflicts along the Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSA). As a result, the Australian government has contemplated expanding and deepening the strait.