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AUSTRALIA

AS IT IS.

CHAPTER I.

Description of Australia-Early Discoveries-Explora

tions of the Interior-Aspect of the Country-Australia Felix—The colony of Western Australia.

The great island of “ Australia,” so remarkable for its extraordinary productions, both in the vegetable and animal kingdoms; and which by its geographical situation, salubrity of climate and fertility of soil, opens a land of promise to millions of the Anglo-Saxon race, is of comparatively recent discovery; and for the most part, as yet, a wilderness untrodden by civilized

VOL. I.

B

man. A century ago the mere coast line of this “Great South Land” was an unsolved geographical problem : in the eyes of the learned its very existence was a phenomenon so strange, that Blumenbach supposed it a planet dropped from the heavens; and even the distinguished navigators and scientific explorers who so lately have surveyed its coast, and partially penetrated the interior, can arrive at no satisfactory conclusion as to the probable cause, or the epoch of the formation of this incomprehensible territory, whether it has been exuded from the bowels of the earth by volcanic agency, or been recovered within modern times from the waters of the

ocean.

Australia is the largest and chief of a group of islands lying to the south of Asia, collectively named Austral-Asia. It lies between 10° 45' and 28° 45' S. lat. and 112° 20' and 153° 30' E. long. Next to the great continents comprising the “four quarters of the world,” it is the largest mass of land known; its greatest length from north to south being 1,680 miles, its

greatest length from east to west 2,227 miles. It contains an area of about 2,690,810 square miles; and its coast line is estimated at 8,000 nautical miles.

Almost everything in nature is, in Australia, the reverse of what it is here. When we have winter they have summer, when we have day they have night; we have our feet pressing nearly opposite to their feet: there too the compass points to the south; the sun travels along the northern heavens; the mercury of the barometer rises with a southerly and falls with a northerly wind; the animals are disproportionately large in their lower extremities, and carry their young in a pouch ; the plumage of the birds is beautiful, their notes are harsh and strange; the swans are black; the eagles are white; the moles lay eggs; the owls screech and hoot only in the day-time; the cuckoo's song is heard only in the night; the valleys are cool, the mountain-tops are warm; the north winds are hot, the south winds are cold, the east winds are healthy; the bees are without sting ; the cherries grow with the stone outside; one of the birds has a broom in his mouth instead of a tongue; another creature (the duckbilleted platypus) unites with the body, fur, and habits of a mole, the webbed foot and bill of a duck. Many of the beautiful flowers are without smell; most of the trees are without shade, and shed their bark instead of their leaves : some indeed are without leaves, in others the leaves are vertical; and even the geological formation of the country, as far as ascertained, is most singular.

Taken as a whole, the country, as far as explored, exhibits less hill and dale, with less compact vegetation, than in most other parts of the world. In the interior, there is a lone, barren, stony desert, totally unfit for habitation by man or beast. A more or less broken chain of mountains extends from Spencer's Gulf round the south coast, all along the eastern coast, and round the northern coast, nearly to Limmen’s Bight. Between this great horse-shoe range and the sea extends vast,

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