The Zuytdorp Cliffs extend for about 150 km along a rugged,
spectacular and little visited segment of the Western Australian Indian
Ocean coast in Shark Bay. The cliffs extend from just north of the
mouth of the Murchison River at Kalbarri, to Pepper Point south of
Steep Point. The cliffs are situated in both the Gascoyne and Mid West
regions of the state.
At the highest point, near Womerangee Hill, the top of the cliffs are 250 m above the sea.
The Zuytdorp Cliffs are composed of Pleistocene aged limestone, a
formation called the Tamala Limestone. This limestone formed by the
cementation of ancient calcareous sand dunes that accumulated near the
coast during episodes of the last ice age. It has been inferred that
the relatively straight edge of the cliffs is due to a major fault line
just off shore.
This rugged section of coastline remained the preserve of the
Indigenous inhabitants for many years and one of the last great
wildernesses until the advent of the sheep stations established in the
late 19th century,
The cliffs are named after an 18th century trading ship of the Dutch
East India Company, the Zuytdorp, that was wrecked against the cliffs
On 1 August 1711, it was dispatched from the Netherlands to the
trading port of Batavia (now Jakarta, Indonesia) bearing a load of
freshly minted silver coins.
Many trading ships of the time had started to use a "fast route" to
Indonesia, which used the strong Roaring Forties winds to carry them
across the Indian Ocean to within sight of the west coast of Australia
whence they would make a left turn and head north towards Indonesia.
The Zuytdorp never arrived at its destination. No search was
undertaken, presumably because the VOC had no idea whether and where
the ship had been wrecked or taken by pirates and possibly due to prior
expensive but fruitless attempts to search for other missing ships,
even when an approximate wreck location was known. Around that time,
white visitors to the area are said to have seen aborigines with blonde
hair and blue eyes, but their connectio to the Zuytdorp survivors has
never been substantiated.
HMAS Sydney wreck
The HMAS Sydney was sunk on 19 November 1941 after a battle with the
disguised German raider Kormoran. On 24 November, after a number of
unsuccessful attempts to contact the ship, a wide sea and air search
was organised. Other than two lifebelts and a Carley float, no trace of
the Sydney was found.