The Great Sandy Desert is a desert in the northwest of Australia. It is mostly in Western Australia. It is the second-largest desert in Australia after the Great Victoria Desert, covering about 284,993 square kilometres (110,036 sq mi). To the south of the Great Sandy Desert is the Gibson Desert, and to the east is the Tanami Desert.
There are not many people living in the Great Sandy Desert. Most of the people are Aboriginal communities and mining towns. The Aboriginal people of the desert fall into two main groups: the Martu in the west and the Pintupi in the east. They both speak Western Desert languages.
The area does not get much rain, but even in the driest parts rainfalls rarely drop below 250 mm (9.8 in). The rate of evaporation (how quickly the water dries up) is very high. Most of the rain comes from thunderstorms. Many drought years end with a monsoon or tropical cyclone. On average for most of the area, there are about 20-30 days where thunderstorms form.
Most of the plants growing across the Great Sandy Desert are spinifex grasses. Animals living in the desert include camels, dingos, red kangaroo, goannas, bilbies, marsupial mole, thorny devils, bearded dragons and many other species of lizard.
The first European to cross the desert was Peter Warburton. He made the journey from Alice Springs leaving in April 1873 and arriving at De Grey Station in January 1874. When Warburton arrived, he was starving and blind in one eye. He thanked his survival on his Aboriginal companion Charley.