MISR Where on Earth...? Quiz #29

The Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) team at NASA is pleased to offer the 29th Where on Earth...? quiz.

Here’s how it works: When you press “Start,” you will be presented with nine multiple-choice questions (one question for each of MISR's nine cameras) about the area seen in the image in the background. You are encouraged to research the answers using any websites or reference materials you like. You cannot go back to previous questions, so make sure of your answer before proceeding! If you answer all questions correctly, you will have a chance to enter for a prize. The deadline for prize entries is June 28, 2017, at 4:00 p.m. PDT.

This natural color image was acquired by the vertical-viewing camera of the MISR instrument in October 2016 and represents an area of about 270 miles by 185 miles (430 kilometers by 300 kilometers). Note that north is not necessarily at the top.

More Info / References

MISR homepage

Archive of previous Where on Earth...? quizzes

An e-book version of William Dampier's account of his first circumnavigation, including his visit to Western Australia (then called New Holland), provided by the Gutenburg Project of Australia: A New Vogage Round the World

Scanned 1:250,000 scale geologic maps of Australia. The Buccaneer Archipelago is found on the Yampi SE5103 map.

Western Australia Parks and Wildlife site for Lalang-garram / Horizontal Falls Marine Park.

Mowanjum Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre

Western Australia Parks and Willife site for Lalang-garram / Camden Sound Marine Park, which includes Montgomery Reef.

Australia.gov page on the history of the pearling industry

Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 license


1. Where on Earth?

What country or countries are depicted in this image?

This area is part of the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

2. Island Enigma

In the center of this image is a group of several hundred islands with a name inspired by a certain English seafarer with an extremely checkered past and an interest in natural history. What was the name of the ship aboard which this person visited the area?

The Buccaneer Archipelago is named after William Dampier, who visited the area in 1688 on the pirate ship Cygnet. Due to the fame of his written account of that expedition, he was given command of the HMS Roebuck for a second voyage to Australia, but he did not visit the archipelago on this trip, and the Roebuck was wrecked off of Ascension Island. Dampier was court-martialed upon his return to England and expelled from the Royal Navy. He later became a privateer, and his last voyage was as sailing master of the privateer ship Duke before his death in 1715. The HMS Endeavour was the ship commanded by James Cook on the first European expedition to reach Australia’s east coast in 1769.

3. Water Titles

IMG_5462, Teloro, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Apart from the Buccaneer Archipelago’s own name, the waters surrounding it have also acquired many colorful monikers over the years. Which of the following is NOT a placename from this area?

IMG_5462, Teloro, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Hells Gate, the Graveyard, and the Funnel are all names given to this area, while Mermaid Sound (not to be confused with Mermaid Island, which is a member of the Buccaneer Archipelago) is located in the Dampier Archipelago, also named for William Dampier and located further south on the Australian coast.

4. Mining Matters

The geology of the archipelago has also provided valuable economic resources over the years. Which of the following is true about the history of the larger of the two islands that have hosted mining operations?

Koolan Island was first home to a mining operation in the 1940s. The hematite mined averaged almost 70% iron content, making the inconvenience and expense of operating on a remote island economically viable. However, conditions were not always easy for the workers, not just from the isolation; there are at least eleven species of snakes living on and around the island, including the highly venomous taipan. A single specimen of a unique lizard named the Buccaneer Burrowing Skink was identified on King Hall Island, but another individual has never been found. The residents of Koolan Island, however, did enjoy access to a golf course that featured the world’s longest golf hole/airstrip at the time, an 867 meter par 7. The island was abandoned in 1993, but the mining operation was later bought and the mine reopened, though it has not been operational since 2014 due to a seawall collapse.

5. Pearls of Industry

Pinctada maxima 01, Line1, CC BY-SA 4.0

What is FALSE about the industry that grew in the area focusing on Pinctada maxima?

Pinctada maxima 01, Line1, CC BY-SA 4.0
Pinctada maxima in this area of Australia produce large shells thickly coated in nacre (mother-of-pearl), but natural pearls are too rare to create a viable industry. Aboriginal peoples have collected pearl shell from the area’s beaches for thousands of years. However, Europeans quickly depleted the supply of easily-accessible shell, and began the practice of diving for live oysters in the often-dangerous waters, frequently using aboriginal people, South Sea Islanders, and eventually Japanese immigrants as indentured laborers. Pregnant women were frequently used as divers early in the industry, as it was believed they could hold their breath longer than others. After the rise of plastic, the demand for pearl shell to make buttons (as well as other items like knife handles) collapsed, and the industry suffered until the introduction of cultured pearl farming. The farm established by Tokuichi Kuribayashi (Kuri Farms) is still in operation. The modern cultured pearl industry is highly regulated in Australia to ensure the continued survival of wild Pinctada maxima.

6. Economic Entity

Another aboriginal artform practiced here is called riji. Early European inhabitants, seeing examples of this artform, realized that a marine organism in the area could provide a considerable profit. What is the scientific name of this organism?

The organism is a marine pearl oyster called the gold-lip or white-lip oyster which products pearls known as South Sea Pearls; its scientific name is Pinctada maxima.

7. Native Creation

The area is home to several sites which feature a form of artwork sacred to local aboriginal peoples, an example of which was featured in the opening ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. What is FALSE about this artform and culture?

Wandjina art and law are a central part of the culture of the Worrorra, Ngarinyin, and Wunambal peoples. A Wandjina designed by Donny Woolagoodja was featured in the 2000 Olympic opening ceremonies. The figures are creation spirits which control the arrival of the monsoon rains, and they are repainted in order to ensure the rains’ annual arrival. They are created with traditional pigments, including the white ochre called ornmol. The Worrorra, Ngarinyin and Wunambal people were forced to leave their lands on the Yampi Peninsula and Buccaneer Archipelago in the early 1900s and were eventually settled near Derby, where they established the Mowanjum Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre, which hosts the annual festival. With the award of recent Native Titles, some Mowanjum are hoping to return to their original lands.

8. Natural wonders

These dire-sounding names are all due to the tricky navigation owing to the area’s spectacular tidal ranges of up to 40 feet (12 meters). In concert with the remarkable local geology, the tides produce a phenomenon that attracts many tourists to the area. What are the names of the two ridge-forming geologic formations that have been folded and weathered to create this sight?

The Horizontal Waterfalls are a unique phenomenon caused by tidal surges rushing through two gaps in the heavily folded topography of the Yampi Peninsula. The rocks are members of the Kimberley Group, which is Precambrian in age. Specifically, the two ridges which are cut by the Horizontal Waterfalls are Pentecost Sandstone and Warton Sandstone.

9. Reef residers

The enormous tidal range of the area also exposes much of the largest inshore reef in Australia twice per day. Which of the following animals might be found around this reef?

Montgomery Reef is the largest inshore reef in Australia. Due to tidal ranges, up to 16 feet (5 meters) of the reef’s elevation can be above water at low tide, which sometimes strands marine creatures. The waters of the Kimberley region are extremely rich in wildlife. Although six species of sea turtles are found in the area, the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is not—it lives only in Mexico. Similarly, many species of sea snakes are present, but the Jerdon’s sea snake is found only further north, and while beach thick-knees are found on the reef, great thick-knees are native to Southeast Asia. Dugongs, a relative of the manatee, are native to this area.