History of Denham
Dutch seaman Dirk Hartog made the first landfall of the west coast of Australia in October 1616. He left a plate recording his visit at Cape Inscription on Dirk Hartog Island. It was found and replaced by another similar plate in February 1697 when another Dutchman, Willem de Vlamingh, explored the west coast. Two years later, British sea captain William Dampier visited and named Shark Bay. French explorer Nicholas Baudin explored the bay in 1801, naming most of the area's coastal features. One of the expedition's crew members, Louis de Freycinet, returned in 1818.
Pearling commenced from Shark Bay in 1850, being the first such base on the WA coast. It continued for another 70 years until operations were centralised in Broome. Tourism is now a major source of income, most of which is generated by the Monkey Mia dolphins. In the 1960s, a fisherman and his wife began feeding Bottlenose Dolphins when returning with their catch.
As news of the dolphins coming inshore spread, visitors started to come to see them. In 1985, an information centre was built, and in 1988, a special state government grant was provided to develop roads, car parks, and facilities. It is now a major tourist attraction.
The town's name honours Capt. Henry Mangles Denham, who surveyed a portion of Shark Bay aboard HMS Herald in 1858. Monkey Mia: Mia is the Aboriginal term for home or shelter, while the Monkey part of the name is allegedly derived from a pearling boat called Monkey that anchored at the now Monkey Mia in the late 19th century, during the days when pearling was an industry in the region.