Stretching over 161,680 square miles, The Great Victoria Desert is the largest desert in Australia, and one of the top 10 largest deserts in the world. It is also a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. It is located between the Eastern Goldfields Region (Western Australia) and Gawler Ranges (South Australia). The Western Australia Mailee shrub eco region is situated on the west side of the Great Victoria. In the northwest, the biome is limited by the Little Sandy Desert. To the north lies the Gibson Desert, with the Central Ranges xeric shrub lands, while in the east lays the Tirari – Sturt Stony Desert. The Nullarbor Plain is a flat, almost treeless area located south of the Great Victoria Desert, separating the biome from the Southern Ocean.
The name was inspired from the then ruling British monarch, Queen Victoria, Explorer Ernest Giles was the first person to have crossed the desert in 1875. Giles was followed by David Lindsey’s expedition, which crossed the area from north to south in 1891. In search of pastoral lands and gold, Frank Hann was the third explorer to have crossed this dry arid stretch between 1903 and 1908. And finally, it was Len Beadell who worked as a surveyor for the Australian army, and surveyed and build the early roads in the 1960’s. (a true Road Warrior)
Statistics provided by the Australian Environment Department, the Great Victoria Desert is home to nine threatened plant species, and is a weed free desert. A landscape which boasts a great mix of lakes, sand dunes, stony plains, and clay pans, the Great Victoria Desert lacks any permanent water sources. Some of the animals which can be spotted here are Great Desert Skink, Sandhill Dunnart, Crest-tailed Mulgara, Water-holding Frogs, Southern Marsupial Moles, Chestnut-Breasted Whiteface, Mallee Fowl, Dingo, Perentie, and Sand Goanna. To take care of threatened wildlife species, the country has created ‘The Great Victoria Desert Nature Reserve.’ The animals here are safeguarded against any illegal hunting, and are constantly checked by reserve supervisors. Australia is a dry continent, and the plants are well adapted to living with very little water. Apart from marble gums, mulga, and spinifex grass, one can also find a huge variety of shrubs and smaller plants. When it does rain, the desert transforms into a beautiful sight to behold where colorful flowers bloom against the red sand dunes.
Reports from World Wildlife Fund, state that the recorded rainfall at the desert is somewhere between 6 inches to 8 inches annually. In summers, the temperatures range between 89.6 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit, but often goes higher, while the winters temperatures range from a comfortable 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit, but the nights can be freezing.
The desert has been fighting pollution, and has been majorly affected by weapons testing and mining, which are the main threats to the Great Victoria Desert’s biodiversity. The WWF claims that this pollution damages the vegetation, and thus destroys the desert’s ecological balance.
Desert tourism contributes nearly $95 million to the economy annually, according to government figures. With unique flora and fauna, the desert attracts tourists and researchers alike to experience the unmatched beauty of this arid region.