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A town on the northwest coast, west of Roebourne, Dampier was first established as a port for Hamersley Iron in the 1960s. It was also gazetted a townsite in 1972. Dampier is named after the English explorer and onetime buccaneer, William Dampier, who visited the adjacent islands in 1699 in his ship the "Roebuck". The island group through which he sailed was named "Dampier Archipelago" by Captain Louis Freycinet in 1803.
William Dampier (1651-1715) was the first Englishman to set foot on Australian soil. As a young man he took part in various adventures on both coasts of central America, and in 1683 joined a group of buccaneers bound for the Pacific. In 1686 he joined the "Cygnet" under Captain Swan, and in 1688, briefly visited Western Australia near Broome. He returned to Western Australia in 1699 for a longer visit, exploring the coast from north of Houtman Abrolhos to north of Broome. He landed on, and named, Rosemary Island in the Dampier Archipelago on this expedition.