Great Victoria Desert

desert in Western Australia and South Australia

The Great Victoria Desert is the largest desert in Australia.[1][2] It consists of sand dunes, small sandhills, grassland plains, areas with closely packed pebbles (called desert pavement or gibber plains) and salt lakes. The desert is an Australian IBRA.[3]

Great Victoria Desert shown in red

The desert covers a large area, about 42,000,000 ha (103,784,260 acres) in the states of Western Australia and South Australia.[2] The distance from east to west is about 700 km (435 mi).[2] It is very dry, getting only between 200 mm (8 in) and 250 mm (10 in) of rain each year.[2] It is surrounded by other very dry areas including the Nullabor Plain to the south, the Gibson Desert to the north, Sturt's Stony Desert to the east. It was named by the explorer Ernest Giles in 1875, after Queen Victoria.[2] Aboriginal people have lived in the desert for more than 24,000 years.[2]

Between 1953 and 1957, the British government exploded nine atomic bombs in the Great Victoria Desert at Maralinga and Emu.[2]



The area of the Great Victoria Desert is shared roughly equally by the states of South and Western Australia. It is north of the Nullarbor Plain and south of the Musgrave Ranges. The desert is bounded on the west by Laverton and the goldfields and to the east by Coober Pedy and the Stuart Highway.



The Great Victoria Desert can be very dry and sandy. However, plants and animals still live there. The plants are adapted to the dry, arid climate, otherwise they would not be able to survive. Wallabies, bandy snakes, lizards, kangaroos and many birds live in the Great Victoria Desert. These animals have also adapted to survive in extreme heat and extreme cold.


  1. Great Victoria Desert – The Largest Desert in Australia. Birgit Bradtke. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 "Friends of the Great Victoria Desert - Facts and Figures". 2012. Retrieved 1 November 2012.[permanent dead link]
  3. The Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (IBRA) is a biogeographic regionalisation of Australia developed by the Australian Government's Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. It was developed for use as a planning tool, for example for the establishment of a National Reserve System.