Only 11 km long and 4.5 km at its widest point, the local Aboriginal people
knew the Island as Wadjemup, thought to have the meaning land across the
water. The Island was named late in 1696 by the Dutch explorer Willem de
Vlamingh who called it Rottnest meaning rats nest, having mistaken the quokkas
(see photo) for huge rats.
European settlement quickly changed the landscape of Rottnest, land was cleared
and tracks made. Firewood was gathered and the Island was repeatedly burned.
Aboriginal prisoners often used fires as an aid in hunting Quokkas.
late 1920s the Quokka population was protected and began to soar and grazing
heavily on the palatable Acacia rostellifera. The impact of fire and Quokka
grazing, resulted in a huge reduction of the Islands forest cover. This
combined with fire and wood collecting reduced the Island remaining naturally
forest area to about 7 per cent.
Today the Rottnest Island Authority is
actively re-greening the Island. with reforestation of the Islands woodland.
Planted areas are protected from Quokkas by fencing, allowing for some areas to
Rottnest Island has a unique style of architecture dating back to the 1800s. It
has a history as an Aboriginal penal settlement, a World War I camp for
prisoners of war, a place for salt gathering and processing and a World War II
Quokka on Rottnest Island ฉ Clifford Shipton