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Gulf of Carpentaria: Map


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The location of the Gulf of Carpentaria.
The Gulf of Carpentaria from an 1859 Dutch map

The Gulf of Carpentaria ( ) is a large, shallow sea enclosed on three sides by northern Australia and bounded on the north by the Arafura Seamarker (the body of water that lies between Australia and New Guineamarker). The northern boundary is generally defined as a line from Slade Point (the northwestern corner of Cape York Peninsulamarker) in the northeast to Cape Arnhem (the easternmost point of Arnhem Landmarker) in the west. At its mouth, the Gulf is 590 km wide, and further south, 675 km. The north-south length exceeds 700 km. It covers a water area of about 300,000 kmĀ². The general depth is between 55 and 66 meters (30 and 36 fm) and does not exceed 82 meters (45 fm). In geological terms, the Gulf is young; it was dry land as recently as the last ice age.


The land bordering the Gulf is generally flat and low-lying. To the west is Arnhem Landmarker, the Top End of the Northern Territorymarker, and Groote Eylandtmarker, the largest island in the Gulf. To the east is the Cape York Peninsulamarker. The area to the south (like the Cape York Peninsula, part of Queenslandmarker) is known as the Gulf Country or simply "the Gulf."

The climate is hot and humid with two seasons per year. The dry season lasts from about April until November and is characterized by very dry southeast to east winds, generated by migratory winter high pressure systems to the south. The wet season lasts from December to March. Most of the year's rainfall is compressed into these months, and during this period, many low-lying areas are flooded. The Gulf is also a breeding ground for cyclones during the period between November and April.

In many other parts of Australia, there are dramatic climatic transitions over fairly short distances. The Great Dividing Rangemarker, which parallels the entire east and south-east coast, is responsible for the typical pattern of a well-watered coastal strip, a fairly narrow band of mountains, and then a vast, inward-draining plain that receives little rainfall. In the Gulf Country, however, there are no mountains to restrict rainfall to the coastal band and the transition from the profuse tropical growth of the seaside areas to the arid scrubs of central Australia is gradual.

In September and October the Morning Glory cloud appears in the Southern Gulf. The best vantage point to see this phenomenon is in the Burketownmarker area shortly after dawn.

European exploration

The first known European explorer to visit the region was the Dutch Willem Janszoon (whose name is also written as Jansz) in his 1606 voyage. His fellow countryman, Jan Carstenszoon (or Carstensz), visited in 1623 and named the gulf in honour of Pieter de Carpentier, at that time the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies. Abel Tasman also explored the coast in 1644. The region was later explored and charted by Matthew Flinders in 1802 and 1803.

Major rivers of the Gulf


The Gulf is one of the distinct physiographic sections of the larger (and surrounding) Carpentaria Basin province, which in turn is part of the larger East Australian Basins physiographic division.

Pop culture

The area around the Gulf of Carpentaria is a major ZAFT military base in the mecha anime series Gundam SEED.



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