« ZurückWeiter »
The leviathan of the island groups of the world, Australia (literally South Asia), lies between latitude Io deg. 43 min. and 39 deg. 9 min. south, and longitude 1 13 deg. 15 min. and 153 deg. east, comprising within its vast limits three million square miles. It has a sea-coast of over eight thousand miles, along the line of which eighty-two small islands are located. Australia was discovered about 1606 by the Dutch, who were the first to locate it and chronicle its existence in modern times. It was first named by them New Holland, a name retained for many years.
From the sea this great island-continent presents an uninviting appearance, giving one the impression that the crags and mountains fringing the shores enclose a sterile waste within. Probably no country in the world has received more attention from men of science and explorers than Australia, and that, too, with less beneficial results, as the great mountain ranges and barren wastes of the interior are to-day as an unknown land.
One of the greatest detriments to its rapid progress in peopling and civilization, was its establishment as a penal colony by Great Britain. This, together with the low order of the native races, some two hundred thousand in number, who are little above the animal in the scale of humanity, proved for many years a great barrier to the peopling of the island with the better classes. Until 1851 the progress of Australia was under a ban; when Mr. Hargreaves, returning from the gold fields of California, discovered the precious metal on the island. From this time may be dated the advancement of that country. The gold fever drew people from all parts of the world to settle on her shores. Cities and, towns rapidly sprang into existence, while the consequent development of great agricultural resources, fed with the thousand millions in gold taken from her mines, placed her at once among the great countries of the world. With the single exception of California, nothing like Australia's progress has occurred in ancient or modern times. The discovery of many valuable mines of copper, coal, tin, lead and silver followed that of gold, and being found in large and paying quantities, add largely to the income of the inhabitants.
The mountain ranges on the island are but few in number. The greatest altitude of those already discovered does not exceed seven thousand feet.
There are many ponds and swamps in the interior, with few navigable streams—only in the rainy season. Even then navigation is very uncertain, as the waters of most of the rivers frequently disappear —lost in the sands of the surrounding wastes.
The flora of the island is not varied or extensive, but two species forming the principal forest growth— the eucalyptii and acacia—although more than one hundred varieties of each of these interesting species are sound, and in great abundance.
GEOLOGICAL AND GEOGRAPHICAL.
The geological formation is quite an interesting study, partaking of the eruptic, metamorphic, trappean, with the sedimentary sandstones of the tertiary period. From careful scientific observations, it is found that Australia is slowly rising from the deep—gradually but surely taking its place among the continents of the world. Unlike some of its short-lived neighbors lying to the westward in the Straits of Sudan, whose appearance and disappearance mark but a period in the birth, growth and death of islands, Australia is apparently on a foundation that may last for all time. The population is about two millions, who, when not mining, are principally in the agricultural and grazing interests. The value of exports and imports may be stated at $500,000,000 per annum. The island, from its immense area, is marked off in several colonial divisions. The principal of these are Northern Australia, or Alexandra's Land, colonized in 1838; Western Australia, colonized in 1829; south from which is Tasman's Land, surveyed in 1818; Southern Australia, colonized in 1834; Queensland on the northeast, and New South Wales on the southeast, colonized in 1778. Captain Cook is credited with the discovery of Australia in 1770. Tasman, who discovered New Zealand and Tasmania as early as 1642, could not have sailed to notice and locate it in his voyages. Dirk Hartog, a Dutch navigator, is credited also with its discovery, by some authorities, in 1606.
NEW ZEALAND. This group of three principal and thirteen smaller islands, to the southeast of Australia, between latitudes 34 deg. and 48 deg. south and 161 deg. and 179 deg. east longitudes, comprise in their area 122,582 square miles, a little larger than Great Britain and Ireland. The population is 476,OOO.
The geological formation is volcanic eruptic, with the sedimentary formations and fossils of the tertiary period. Like Australia, the lands are slowly rising from the sea. Of minerals, the islands have an abundant supply—coal, copper, iron, lead and manganese being found. The natural vegetation of New Zealand is wonderful in its luxuriance, many hundreds of species crowding the forests. Nearly all of these are of the evergreen type, and give to the islands an appearance of perpetual spring. Of the animal kingdom there is but little to be said, as when discovered in 1642, by Tasman, a species of rat and the dog were about the only animals to be found. Those of a more recent date are altogether domestic, the results of importations from other countries by the settlers. From the long narrow configuration of the islands, the streams, though many in number, are of no great length, breadth or depth. Mountain ranges cross the islands in many places, but generally speaking are not of great prominence, if we except Mt. Cook, which is supposed to be 14,000 feet high. There are many evidences of volcanic action throughout the group. Tongariro is the only active volcano at the present time. Of the natives, Mr. Taylor says: “The New Zealanders are decidedly a mixed race—some have wooly hair, others brown or flaxen; some are many shades darker than others. The peculiar features of the Mongol are also very common; the oblique eye, the yellow countenance, the remarkable depression of the space between the eyes so that there is no rise in
the nose, seem clearly to indicate that some portion of the race is of Chinese or Japanese descent.
Tasmania, or Van Dieman's Land, just south of Australia, between 40 deg. 40 min. and 43 deg. 38 min. south latitude, and longitude 144 deg. 33 min. and 148 deg. 28 min. east, a group of some seventeen islands occur; but one of them is of any size or importance at present.
Tasmania was discovered and located by Tasman in 1642, but was re-located and taken possession of by the English in 1803. The island has an area of 22,629 square miles, with a population of I Io,000.
The island is of a similar formation to Australia, although the soil is much more fertile, and without any of the desert wastes of the larger island. The mountain ranges are extensive, but not of very great height. The forests are immense, the eucalyptus and acacia, in all their many varieties, growing in the greatest luxuriance.
Of minerals, Tasmania has an abundance—gold, copper, iron and coal mines are worked at a considerable profit.
The climate is temperate; all the fruits, vegetables and cereals are cultivated, forming one of the principal exports of the group.
The natives are of the same type as the aborigines of New Zealand and Australia, and are now nearly extinct.