Dampier is a port town in the Pilbara region, twenty kilometres west of Karratha. It is named after the British explorer William Dampier who visited in 1699. For thousands of years the Yaburara Aboriginal peoples knew the area as Murujuga - meaning ‘hip bone sticking out’ in the Ngarluma-Yaburara language.
The Pilbara is rich with Aboriginal history. The Burrup Peninsula near Dampier, contains one of the most prolific sites for prehistoric rock art in the world. There are more than 10,000 Aboriginal engravings in over 1000 recorded sites. The engravings feature turtles, fish and much more. Some of them, record the arrival of the Europeans.
Major development in the area began in the early 1960s, when Dampier was chosen as the port for Hamersley Iron’s operations. Later, in 1972, Dampier Salt began operations - it is now one of the largest private salt producers in the world, producing over four million tonnes per annum at Dampier alone.
Off the coast of Dampier, lies the Dampier Archipelago. A coastal wonderland of forty-two islands and islets, containing the most biodiverse marine environment in WA. The area is an important nesting site for green, loggerhead, flatback and hawksbill turtles. The surrounding waters also host dugongs, manta rays, bottlenose dolphins and humpback whales.
While the wildlife is the star of the archipelago, Dampier also has a colourful social history.
One example is the captivating story behind Sam’s Island, originally known as Tidepole Island. Sam arrived in Dampier in 1965, visited the island on a makeshift raft and found himself stranded for a few days.
While waiting to be rescued, Sam developed a fondness for this island. This in turn inspired him to construct a castle, carting materials from the mainland. In 2005 when Sam passed away, he was buried on the island with his beloved cat.