The town of Exmouth on North West Cape came into being in 1964 when it was constructed as the support town for the US-run Harold Holt US Navy Communications Base.
Exmouth's claim to fame is the fact that it is the closest Australian mainland town to the continental shelf. This results in there being very rich fishing grounds within close reach. In addition, it has colourful coral reefs very close to the shore.
North West Cape Communications Base
Sitting on the extreme north west corner of Australia, Exmouth occupies a strategic position in terms of both defence and comunications. It is therefore not surprising that Learmonth RAAF Base (48 km south) and North West Cape Communications Base (16 km north) are close at hand. The latter's Tower Zero, one of thirteen towers of the base's very low frequency transmitting station, at 369 metres high, was for many years the tallest man-made structure in the southern hemisphere. The base was built as a communications centre for the US Navy's fleet of submarines.
North West Cape
North West Cape is the large peninsula that separates Exmouth Gulf from the Indian Ocean on the north west tip of the continent. It is a locality full of contrasts; the traveller passes from high plateau shrub land to deep ocean, eucalypt woodlands to deep rocky gorges, within just a few kilometres. The scenery is quite breathtaking scenery. Aany examples of Aboriginal art appear in the caves and rock overhangs of Cape and Rough Ranges on North West Cape.
A small resort town to the south of Exmouth, it caters for the increasing number of tourists visiting the North West Cape area. Its waters are warm for most of the year and clear, the beaches are white, hard and beautifully clean, but more importantly, they are literally a step away from Nigaloo Reef, one Australia's most iconic natural attractions.
Ningaloo Reef is one of the rare places on earth where you are able to walk from the beach straight onto a coral reef. A protected marine park area on the ocean side of North West Cape in Western Australia, Ningaloo is a virtually untouched barrier reef of 260km length protecting a shallow, brilliant white sandy lagoon of clear tropical waters. More than 500 species of tropical fish and 220 species of coral make up the Ningaloo Reef.
A whaling station was established at Point Cloates in 1912. By the mid-1920s over 1000 whales per annum were being caught and processed. After being destroyed by a cyclone in 1945, it was opened again in 1949 but ceased operations permanently in 1963 when a worldwide campaign led to a ban on the slaughter of the world's ever-decreasing population of humpback whales.
Learmonth Solar Observatory
The observatory is the site of one of six solar velocity imagers in the world-wide GONG (Global Oscillation Network Group) network operated by NOAO (US National Optical Astronomy Observatories). It was established by agreement between the Australian and United States Governments in October 1977. Jointly operated by IPS Radio and Space Services and the US Air Force, its operations commenced in April 1979. Learmonth Observatory operates optical and radio telescopes to monitor the Sun. Information collected at Learmonth is reported directly to forecast centres in both Australia and the USA.