Camden Sound

Camden Sound, approximately 400km north of Broome, is a shallow embayment in the Indian Ocean located in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, bounded by the Bonaparte Archipelago to the east, the Buccaneer Archipelgo to the west, and Montgomery Reef - at 292km2 Australia's largest inshore reef - to the South.

There is no road access and the nearest town is Kalumburu, 268 kilometres (167 mi) to the east. Camden Sound includes Augustus Island at its northern extent, Champagny, Byam Martin and the Heywood Islands to the West, Bumpus Island, Rice Rocks, Sampson Inlet, Deception Bay and Prior Point to the South. As with the rest of the Kimberley coast, the area is marked by an extreme tidal variation of up to 11m on a spring tide.

Between 1818 and 1822 Phillip Parker King charted the Kimberley coast, reefs and islands in the Mermaid and the Bathurst. King named Camden Sound after the 1st Marquess of Camden, John Jeffrey Pratt, an English nobleman and politician who was a generous patron of the New South Wales colony in the early 1800s.

The southern part of Camden Sound contains a complex bathymetry offshore shoals, rock platforms and soft sediments, whilst St George Basin, to the north of Camden Sound, is home to the largest remaining mangrove forest on earth.

Camden Sound is a drowned valley of the Western section of the McDonald Range, with the valleys dominated by mud sediment and a rocky bottom. Tidal runoff and sediment loads from freshwater rivers and creeks affect water clarity, nutrient levels, primary productivity in the water column, salinity and temperatures inshore. The complexity of these various influences mean that Camden Sound is likely to have characteristics unique to this part of the Kimberley coast.

The area has received worldwide recognition as a crucial breeding and calving area for the Breeding Group D population of Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) - at approximately 22,000 individuals, the world's largest Humpback Whale population. The calves are suckled in the warm, tropical waters for several months until they gain the strength for the journey back to the Antarctic for summer feeding. It has recently been recognized that the whales are also feeding opportunistically along the Kimberley coast.

Camden Sound is rich in other cetaceans including The Australian Snub-fin dolphin (described as a species as recently as 2005), Blue Whales, Pygmy Killer Whales, Pilot Whales and Bottlenose Dolphins. In addition, the area is surrounded by fringing reefs with hard and soft corals, turtles (Loggerheads, Olive-ridleys, Leatherbacks and our endemic Flatbacks), molluscs, fish and marine invertebrates. Examination by AIMS in 2008 showed that the fringing reefs around north and south Wailgwin Islands have been found to be particulary rich in reef building corals, whips and sponges, and that many species of sponges may yet be un-named.

On the 3rd October 2009 Donna Farragher, Western Australia's Environment Minister, announced that Camden Sound would become the Kimberley's first inshore Marine Park, largely in recognition of the area's status as nursery and breeding area to the world's largest population of Humpback Whales. The boundaries of the Marine Park are yet to be finalized.