On the 25th of October 1616, Captain Dirk Hartog arrived on the Eendracht and announced his arrival by leaving an inscribed plate with his name and date of arrival at what is now known as Cape Inscription.
In 1697, Flemish Captain Willem de Vlamingh landed at Cape Inscription and found Dirk Hartog’s plate. As the plate was badly weathered, Vlamingh copied the record on to another plate and added his own record.
In August 1699, Captain William Dampier anchored and surveyed the northern end of Dirk Hartog Island.
In 1772, French Captain Louis Francois de Saint-Alouarn landed on the island and claimed it in the name of the French King. As a proof of his presence he buried a parchment and two French coins nearby which lay undiscovered until 1998.
Louis de Freycinet came to Shark Bay in 1818 and removed the plate from Cape Inscription. He returned to Europe where it was presented to the French Academy in Paris. The Vlamingh Plate then disappeared until 1940.
In the 1850s, the island’s most significant industries were guano mining and pearling.
In 1908 constructions began on the Cape Inscription lighthouse, two quarters for the lighthouse keepers, a store house, oil store and stables with constructions being completed in 1910.
A jetty and a tramway were also subsequently built in order to facilitate the delivery of goods to the lighthouse. The freight was hauled up the cliffs on the tramway by a horse-operated winch.
The Cape Inscription lighthouse is still functional and the remains of the lighthouse keepers’ quarters can also be seen.
In 1867, Francis Louis von Bibra applied for a pastoral lease on the island to farm sheep.
In early 1869 the lease was granted and the first sheep were transported to Dirk Hartog Island. A homestead was built in 1869, along with a 5-stand shearing shed and a 5-bedroom shearing quarters.
In 1968 the Australian government decided to sell the island to the highest bidder and Sir Thomas Wardle decided to purchase the island’s pastoral lease for himself.
Dirk Hartog Island became a private retreat for Sir Thomas and Lady Wardle. The number of sheep was reduced to 6,000 and the top half of the island was shut down.
In the early 1990s the price for wool declined dramatically and in 1993 Dirk Hartog Island took its first steps into tourism.
In 1993 Kieran Wardle, the grandson of Sir Thomas Wardle, took over the island
and began a new page in the island’s history – tourism.
Dirk Hartog Island has always been known for its amazing scenery and fishing locations but it wasn’t until Kieran and his wife Tory took a few people over that they had the opportunity to experience the island firsthand.
Over the years Kieran and Tory have managed to turn Dirk Hartog Island into one of Australia’s
premier eco-tourism destinations.