Geography of Australia: Geology, climate, deserts, bodies of water, natural resources, environment and people
Australia is a unique continent whose name means ‘Southern Land’ in Latin, known for its unique climate and natural beauty. Australia’s major cities sit next to deserted beaches. An isolated nation that cares about its people and is hospitable to visitors.
Australia lies in the southern and eastern hemispheres. The world’s smallest continent occupies just 5% of the Earth’s landmass. The continent and its islands cover 7,692,024 square kilometres. The length from north to south is 3,700 km, and from west to east – about 4,000 km.
The coastline extends for 35,877 km, and is poorly indented. The waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria extend into the northern coast of the continent, while the Cape York Peninsula rises prominently against the main coastline. The main bays are situated in south-eastern Australia.
The continent’s most extreme points include:
- To the north, Cape York, washed by the waters of the Coral and Arafura Seas;
- In the south, Cape South Point, washed by the Tasman Sea;
- To the west, Cape Stipe Point, washed by the waters of the Indian Ocean;
- Cape Byron to the east, washed by the waters of the Tasman Sea.
Tasmania is Australia’s largest island. Its total area is 68 401 square kilometers. On the north coast are islands Groote Island, Melville and Bathurst and large islands Derk Harthog in the west and Fraser in the east. Within the mainland shoal are Kangaroo, King and Flinders Islands.
The Great Barrier Reef is an invaluable natural monument located along the northeast line of the continent. It includes clusters of small submerged and above-water islands as well as coral reefs. It is more than 2,000 kilometers long.
To the north, west and south, Australia is washed by the Indian Ocean, and to the east by the Pacific Ocean. Moreover, the continent is washed by the waters of four seas: the Timor or Orange, Arafura, Tasmanian and Coral Seas, which attract tourists from all over the world all year round.
Blue Mountains, Australia
Australia’s topography is dominated by flat areas. Mount Kosciusko, 2,228 m above sea level, is the highest point on the continent. The average altitude on the continent is 215 m. The Australian Platform, which was once part of the ancient continent of Gondwana, represents the foundation of the continent today. The basement area is overlain by strata of marine and continental sedimentary rocks.
The present-day relief includes the West Australian Plateau, the Central Lowlands, and the East Australian Mountains. As a result of the rise and fall of the Earth’s crust, a sag filled with sedimentary rocks was formed in the east of the Australian Platform. The Great Dividing Range is located in the eastern part of the continent. The mountains, formed during the Paleozoic Era, have eroded over time. Only the Australian Alps exceed the two-thousand mark. It is the only place on the continent where snow lies in shaded gorges in places.
The continent has no active volcanoes or earthquakes. It is located in the center of the Australian plate, which has spared it from seismically active faults at tectonic plate boundaries.
The Great Sandy Desert in Australia
Australia is the Earth’s most arid continent. Desert areas account for 44% of the region. They are mainly located in the northwest of the continent. Listed below are Australia’s largest deserts:
The Great Victoria Desert.
The largest area, which occupies 4% of the total area of the continent. It is named after the British queen. Part of the area is owned by Aborigines. Agricultural activity is impossible because of lack of water.
Great Sandy Desert
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A little-explored area in the north of the continent. There are shallow water basins, precipitation is intermittent. But because of the high temperatures, moisture evaporates very quickly. Gold is mined in the desert.
The scarlet-colored sands that roll over the area are famous among tourists. The region is named after an English geographer. In the XX century, it was searched for oil, to no avail. Today, the desert is popular with fans of off-road driving.
Located between the Great Sandy Desert and the Victoria Desert. There are several salt lakes in the area. The state has created a reserve here for animals adapted to harsh climatic conditions.
Little Sandy Desert
There are several lakes located in the area. The largest, Disappointment. Water in it is not suitable for drinking and household purposes, although this has not prevented the natives to settle in the desert.
It was named after the Polish explorer. Around the desert, there are several villages whose population is engaged in agriculture. On the territory itself there is a national park, which offers entertainment for fans of extreme tourism.
The main river system on the continent is the Murray River and its tributaries: the Darling, the Marrambidge and the Goulburn. The total area is more than 1 million km². Because of low precipitation most rivers dry up. Constant drainage have springs originating in the mountains of Eastern Australia and the rivers of Tasmania.
The largest lakes are Eyre, Gairdner, Frome and Torrens in the south. Most of the time they are pits, lined with saline clays. On the southeast coast there are numerous lagoons separated by shoals from the sea. Freshwater lakes are found on the island of Tasmania. Great Lake is used for hydrotechnical purposes.
Australia has large reserves of artesian water. Total reserves of freshwater groundwater sources amount to about 3,240,000 km². However, they are deep, warm and often saline. The water is suitable for grazing livestock, but unsuitable for agricultural use because of the high mineral content. The Great Artesian basin covers 1751.5 thousand km². The development of agriculture on the mainland depends on it.
The continent is located in three climatic belts:
Tasmania is in a temperate climate. Because Australia is south of the equator, winter begins in June and summer in December. There are no extreme temperatures or weather extremes. From May to October, it is always sunny and the humidity is 30%. The average temperature during the winter period is usually no lower than 13º C. A cold winter is when the thermometer drops to zero. Summer is a period of cyclones and thunderstorms, with temperatures reaching 29º C. The southeastern coast has a climate reminiscent of the Mediterranean. The coldest region of Australia is Tasmania Island. Frosts may occur there in the winter. In the central areas of the continent there are slight temperature variations.
Flora and fauna:
Flora and Fauna
The flora is very distinctive and endemic to Australia because of its remoteness from the rest of the continent. The climate is extremely arid, and because of this, the nature is dominated by exceptionally viable plants. Trees have a strong root system, which is adapted to suck water from a depth of up to 30 meters. Some plant species have stiff, leathery leaves that unfurl from the sun to avoid excessive evaporation. Eucalyptus, bottle tree, palms and ficuses dominate.
Desert flora is represented by acacia and turfgrasses. In places where there is a lot of rainfall, the same eucalyptus grows, but accompanied by horsetails and ferns, as well as other plants peculiar to the Mediterranean climate. Forest resources of the continent are small. The total area of green space is 5% of Australia, including artificial plantations of pine and other soft tree species. The colonists imported European species of trees, grasses, and shrubs. Grapes and cotton plants as well as fruit trees and vegetables did well. Corn, rye, oats, wheat, and barley grew well on Australian soil.
Because Australia developed later than other continents and in isolation, it is home to animals that are unique and found nowhere else in the world. There are virtually no ruminants, ungulates or monkeys. But there are many representatives of the marsupials: the kangaroo, the marsupial squirrel, the anteater, the Tasmanian devil, and the marsupial mouse. In all, there are about 250 species. There are many bizarre animals: the echidna, koala, platypus, and cloak lizards. Unusual birds include lyrebirds and emus. In terms of the number of dangerous representatives of fauna of Australia can be given the palm of the first place. It is best to stay away from wild dog Dingo, casuar, reptiles and spiders. The most dangerous animal, oddly enough, is considered to be the mosquito of the Cusacki family. It is a carrier of dangerous diseases. Marine animals are also dangerous. Varieties of sharks, jellyfish and octopus can carry a serious threat to holidaymakers on the coast.
Mineral resources are considered the main wealth of the continent, the potential of which is 20% higher than in the rest of the world. Australia is rich in bauxite. Mining of iron ore began in the second half of the twentieth century. In the west there are deposits of polymetals. Gold is mined in the southwestern part of the continent. Scientists have found that there are deposits of natural gas and oil. Explorations are underway at this time.
The country’s economy is held high by mining. Mining depletes the subsoil and destroys the topsoil. Because of this, areas for agriculture are shrinking. The chronic shortage of water has forced the government to create a number of bans. At certain times of the year, people are not allowed to water their lawns, wash their cars, or fill their swimming pools. During the Cold War, nuclear tests were conducted in the country. This had a negative effect on the radiation situation. Maraling, the area where the tests were conducted, is still considered contaminated.
Today’s uranium springs are located close to Spencer Bay and Kakadu National Park. This is a public concern: a precedent has already been set for dirty water being discharged into a wildlife refuge. Aboriginal people’s lives depend on natural factors. As a result of the desertification of the continent, they have to leave their settled settlements forever. The government and world-renowned NGOs are working hard to preserve Australia’s unique environment and natural resources. New nature reserves and national parks are being created.
The first generation of colonists arrived on the mainland in 1788. At that time Australia was a place of exile for lawbreakers. The first settlers numbered just over a thousand. Forced immigration greatly increased the number of people. Australia ceased to be a place of exile for convicts in 1868. The influx of voluntary colonists was connected with the development of cattle breeding and the opening of the mines.
Today’s society bears no resemblance to the country’s difficult years of development and formation. The population is 24.5 million. It is the fiftieth largest country in the world. The number of aborigines is 2.7%. Migrants are most often of British, German, New Zealand, Italian, and Filipino descent. There are a large number of denominations in the country. The official language is Australian English. It is spoken by 80 percent of the population.
Population density varies by region. On average, in a square kilometer there are no more than three people. The most densely populated south-east coast of the continent. Australia has a high life expectancy, averaging about eighty years. The process of rapid aging because of the low birth rate, as in Europe, is not observed. Australians are still among the young nations.
Australia: Environment, climate, history, culture, places of interest
Australia is the smallest, flattest and driest continent, with 40% of its land area in the tropics and 1/3 is desert (Great Sandy Desert, Gibson Desert, Great Victoria Desert, Simpson Desert). The Australian Alps are located in the east. In the southeast is a fertile area fed by the Darling, Lachlan, and Murray rivers. There are seasonal rivers within the continent and Lake Eyre in the south. About 75% of Australia’s rainforests were cleared for cultivation by European settlers in the 19th century.
Natural conditions and climate
The climate in Australia is very diverse. In the north, the climate is hot all year round. The rest of the continent has a temperate climate. The seasons are aligned with those of the northern hemisphere, which means that summer from December to February, autumn from March to May, winter from June to August and spring from August to November.
Flora and Fauna
Australia has unique animal species such as kangaroos, koalas, and Tasmanian devils, as well as about 800 species of birds such as parrots, emus, and black swans. There are also a large number of endemic species, such as 750 species of eucalyptus and 450 species of acacia. The desert within the continent is covered with prickly shrubs, dwarf eucalyptus, and casuarinas.
Flora and Fauna
Savannah and monsoon forests in the north and equatorial forests with palms, vines, and epiphytes in the east. Alpine vegetation can be found at the highest altitudes of the Australian Alps. Rare species of plants and animals have survived because of the separation of the continent of Australia from the rest of the world. Until the 1920s, mainland Australia was constantly being explored.
Aboriginal Australia was of little interest to Europeans. Its east coast was colonized by the English after losing some North American possessions. In 1788 the so-called First Fleet landed with a group of British prisoners, and a British penal colony resulted. It was under military rule, and its economy was based on land cultivated by convicts. Hard coal mining and sheep farming soon began. Wool exports to England became the backbone of the area’s economy. In the 1820s Australia was the largest producer of wool in the world . Colonists from various countries occupied Aboriginal lands, which were exterminated until the early 20th century.
During the second half of the 19th century, deposits of gold, iron ore and base metals were discovered, sparking a dynamic industrial development and influencing the continued influx of immigrants from Europe, the United States and Asia. At the end of the 19th century, attempts to create a federation of colonies intensified. The Commonwealth of Australia was established in 1901. Before World War I, Liberal and Labor rule established political democracy. Australia took part in that war under British sovereignty. As a result of the postwar treaties in 1919, Australia received a League of Nations mandate over the former German colonies in the Pacific. Economic recovery, initiated by the war, continued during the interwar period.
In World War II, Australia participated with Great Britain. The threat from Japan and insufficient assistance from the British forced the Australian government to cooperate with the United States. Australia became a major base in the Pacific. In 1942 she became a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Because of the war situation, Australia’s economic development accelerated and it became one of the richest countries in the world. Australia also participated in the Korean and Vietnam wars. Soon after, it abandoned the “white Australia” doctrine, accepting more and more immigrants of color, mostly from Asia. There was also a change in policy toward the Aborigines. In 1967 they were given full citizenship rights, some land was returned and funds were allocated for social welfare.
Culture and the Arts
During the pre-colonization period, indigenous art developed in Australia. It was mainly drawings on bark and stones, sculptures, and decorations of useful and iconic objects – monuments in the Kimberley, Grampians, and Queensland. From the late 17th century colonial art began to develop, imitating European, especially English, examples in painting and sculpture.
Culture and the Arts
Highlights of course include the Sydney Opera House, the modern Parliament Building in Canberra, the Carillon Bell Tower with 53 bells in Canberra, the exhibition of war memorabilia at the Australian War Memorial, the Royal National Park – the oldest national park in Australia, the caves with stalactites and stalagmites in Buchanan, the Keeping Place Gallery in Melbourne, the Children’s Museum in Melbourne, where exhibitions can be held, Gariwerd – a national park with 400 million year old sandstone and Aboriginal cave paintings, Sovereign Hill Historical Park – a gold rush town reconstruction museum where visitors can also wash sand, Adelaide’s bicentennial conservatory – a tropical greenhouse, Heino Gold Mine in Kalgoorlie, Broome Pearl Farm – pearl farming, Cradle Mountain – St. John’s Lake.
Clare National Park in Tasmania, with wool – Geelong National Wool Museum, Ganteom National Point in Broome (imprinted dinosaur footprints over 120 million years old on rocks), Kangaroo Island, Koala Reserve where tourists can play with the animals and feed koalas.