The Great Victoria Desert exists as a largely unpopulated desert region because the harsh climate and extreme weather patterns that impact the majority of the landmass make it inhospitable to most forms of life. Because of the difficult climate and terrain, there are no major population centers other than Aboriginal reserves. Moreover, nuclear weapons test sites have likely made some of the area radioactive, further contributing to its lack of population.
The Great Victoria Desert is Australia’s largest desert, consisting of a vast expanse of dunes or sand hills that cover areas at low elevations, grass, and salt marshes. Its dune fields were formed during glacial stages of the last several glacial cycles.
The desert is located in the southern range of Western Australia and extends into the western half of South Australia. It is characterized by an arid climate and variable, often unpredictable rainfall. In fact, the Great Victoria Desert can record extreme temperatures that make it unsuitable to support most animal habitats or vegetation.
However, the Great Victoria Desert is known for the broad diversity of its lizard population. It is home to over 100 types of reptile species, according to the WWF (World Wildlife Fund). Moreover, despite its arid desert climate, the area is able to support certain desert vegetation.
The Great Victoria Desert is bordered by the Gibson Desert on the north and the Nullarbor Plain on the south. Central and North West Aboriginal reserves take up a significant portion of the eastern region of the Great Victoria Desert. There are also some national parks and reserves in the area.
The reason that the desert is named the Great Victoria Desert is that in 1875, a party led by the explorer Ernest Giles "discovered" the desert. Giles named the region Great Victoria Desert after the ruling monarch of his day, Queen Victoria.