The Northern Territory (abbreviated as NT) is a federal Australian territory in the centre and central northern regions. It shares borders with Western Australia to the west (129th meridian east), South Australia to the south (26th parallel south), and Queensland to the east (138th meridian east). To the north, the territory is bordered by the Timor Sea, the Arafura Sea and the Gulf of Carpentaria. Despite its large areaover 1,349,129 square kilometres (520,902&160sq&160mi), making it the third largest Australian federal divisionit is sparsely populated. The Northern Territory's population of 243,700 (2014) makes it the least populous of Australia's eight major states and territories, having fewer than half as many people as Tasmania.The archaeological history of the Northern Territory begins over 40,000 years ago when Indigenous Australians settled the region. Makassan traders began trading with the indigenous people of the Northern Territory for trepang from at least the 18th century onwards. The coast of the territory was first seen by Europeans in the 17th century. The British were the first Europeans to attempt to settle the coastal regions. After three failed attempts to establish a settlement (18241828, 18381849, and 186466), success was achieved in 1869 with the establishment of a settlement at Port Darwin. Today the economy is based on tourism, especially Kakadu National Park in the Top End and the UluruKata Tjuta National Park (Ayers Rock) in central Australia, and mining.The capital and largest city is Darwin. The population is not concentrated in coastal regions but rather along the Stuart Highway. The other major settlements are (in order of size) Palmerston, Alice Springs, Katherine, Nhulunbuy, and Tennant Creek. Residents of the Northern Territory are often known simply as 'Territorians' and fully as 'Northern Territorians', or more informally as 'Top Enders' and 'Centralians'.Indigenous Australians have lived in the present area of the Northern Territory for an estimated 40,000 years, and extensive seasonal trade links existed between them and the peoples of what is now Indonesia for at least five centuries.With the coming of the British, there were four early attempts to settle the harsh environment of the northern coast, of which three failed in starvation and despair. The Northern Territory was part of colonial New South Wales from 1825 to 1863, except for a brief time from February to December 1846, when it was part of the short lived colony of North Australia. It was part of South Australia from 1863 to 1911. Under the administration of colonial South Australia, the overland telegraph was constructed between 1870 and 1872.
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A railway was also built between Palmerston and Pine Creek between 1883 and 1889. The economic pattern of cattle raising and mining was established so that by 1911 there were 513,000 cattle. Victoria River Downs was at one time the largest cattle station in the world. Gold was found at Grove Hill in 1872 and at Pine Creek, Brocks Creek, Burrundi, and copper was found at Daly River.On 1 January 1911, a decade after federation, the Northern Territory was separated from South Australia and transferred to Commonwealth control. Alfred Deakin opined at this time 'To me the question has been not so much commercial as national, first, second, third and last. Either we must accomplish the peopling of the northern territory or submit to its transfer to some other nation.'For a brief time between 1927 and 1931 the Northern Territory was divided into North Australia and Central Australia at the 20th parallel of South latitude. Soon after this time, parts of the Northern Territory were considered in the Kimberley Plan as a possible site for the establishment of a Jewish Homeland, understandably considered the 'Unpromised Land'.During World War II, most of the Top End was placed under military government. This is the only time since Federation that part of an Australian state or territory has been under military control. After the war, control for the entire area was handed back to the Commonwealth.