It is about 210km (130 miles) wide with a depth between 55 and 88 metres. Substantial islands guard the approaches and further confuse a sea that is frequently affected by the gales of the Roaring Forties. Its coasts were considered a “ships’ graveyard” during the age of sail.
The area was discovered to be a strait (and Tasmania an island) by George Bass and Matthew Flinders in 1798 and named after Bass. The Strait and the islands in it are legally part of the State of Tasmania. Its islands were unofficially colonised by whalers and sealers even before the mainland to the north and south were settled. The last remnants of the Tasmanian Aboriginals were settled on the Bass Strait Islands and, to this day, a fair proportion of the population have Aboriginal blood and follow certain aspects of Aboriginal culture.