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The Gulf of Carpentaria is bounded in the west by the east coast of Arnhem Land in Australia's Northern Territory, in the south by what is commonly known as Gulf Country, and in the east by the west coast of the Cape York Peninsula.

Prawning fleets, originating from Karumba in the south-east of the gulf, have operated in these waters since the mid-1960s. On the shores of the gulf important mineral discoveries have been made. These include bauxite at Weipa and manganese at Groote Eylandt.

Dutch explorer Willem Jansz first entered the gulf in 1606 to be followed by Jan Carstensz in 1623. Sheep-grazing properties were established between Cloncurry and the gulf in the early 1860s when Burketown was established as a port on the Albert River. When gold was discovered at Croydon, Normanton on the Norman River became the major port.