The Torres Strait

The Torres Strait is a narrow body of water between the Cape York Peninsula at the northern end of Australia and the large Melanesian island of New Guinea. It is approximately 93 miles wide at its narrowest point. It is named for the Spanish explorer Luis Vaz de Torres, who navigated it in 1606. The strait is interrupted by a maze of reefs and islands, making it historically hazardous to navigate. Of the 278 islands in the strait, 17 have permanent residents. The indigenous population, called Torres Strait islanders, are distinct from either the Papua New Guinea peoples or the aboriginal populations of Australia. Papua New Guinea and Australia have entered an agreement whereby both governments protect and preserve the indigenous cultural and human resources of the islanders.