Unique continent


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Unique continent

  1. 1. The Unique ContinentPeople of Indian Origin Geologically, Australia is the oldest of the world’s continents. Its north-west hasprobably been above water for 1600 million years. Until 1788, when the first Britishcolonists arrived, it was inhabited by some 300,000 Stone Age people, considered theonly race which could serve as a common ancestor for all mankind. They were brown, people of Indian origin, linked to the hill tribes of southernIndia. Driven by lack of food or by pressure from stronger races, they moved in stagesvia Ceylon, Malaya, and Indonesia till eventually they reached the north coast ofAustralia. This migration is believed to have occurred some 30,000 years ago.Gradually they advanced down the east and west coasts, and into the center, adaptingthemselves to the harshest conditions imaginable. The land was almost rainless andthere were no crops to be cultivated and no animals to be domesticated. In bygone ages, when sea levels were low, Australia’s north wasseparated from the Asian main land only by narrow straits which hindered the passageof animals but not of migrating tribes. Some 15000 years ago, rising sea levels put anend to migration, and Australia was isolated. The sea guarded the inhabitants fromcontacts and they retained their Stone Age culture. On the coast, they becamefishermen; in the forests and mountains, they were bushmen; in the dry interior, theytravelled far and wide as plainsmen to find food.to eat and water to drink. They weredivided into some 500 tribes and, owing to the isolation of their groups, developed avariety of dialects. They occupied the greater part of the continent and some of theplace names derived from these aborigines, sound like names of streams, hills andvillages of southern India.Down Under The continent is about the size of the United States and twice as large as India.Its total area is almost 7.7 million square kilometers. Its population was about 21 millionin 2008.Its central bulk extends almost 4000 kilometers along the Tropic of Capricorn.To the British, it was ‘Down Under’ the antipodes, the other side of the globe. Perth thecapital of Western Australia is 5800 kilometers from Colombo and 10,400 kilometersfrom Cape Town. Canberra is nearer to the South Pole than to Singapore. Almost three-quarters of Australia’s land area is a vast plateau about 330 meterssea level. There is a highland region stretching north to south close to the east coastknown as the Great Dividing Range. It has an average altitude of 984 meters, and in thesouth-east corner, known as Australian Alps, it rises to 1640 meters over a considerablearea. Here Mount Kosciusko in New South Wales reaches 2228 meters; but it is only a 1
  2. 2. rounded swell over next highest plateau whose summit can be approached by motor carin good summer weather. In Queens-land the highlands achieve their greatest width ofnearly 640 kilometers. The highlands run through Victoria, providing the State withbeautiful valleys and fertile plains. In Tasmania they appear as a rugged mass with acentral plateau where the generous rainfall is held in large lakes. Mount Bartle Frere(735 meters) in Queens-land, Mount Bagong (238 meters) in Victoria and mount Ossa(1721 meters) in Tasmania are the highest points.Water Resources Australia is the driest continent. Its rainfall is unreliable and its rivers often rundry. The total average annual run-off of Australian rivers is 346,200 million cubic meters.India’s Ganges alone discharges 776,900 million cubic meters, while South America’sAmazon accounts for 3, 663, 5000 million cubic meters. In Australia the water resourcesof the mainland south of the Tropic of Capricorn are better exploited than those of thenorth or torrid zone which has 150 centimeters of rain during its five hottest months.People accustomed to working in the tropical heat could have used the soil and water ofthis region with greater success. In general terms, about 705 of Australia receive lessthan 50 centimeters of rainfall in a year. There is a vast arid area in the center whererainfall is between 10 and 15 centimeters a year and at times there may not be rain forthree years in succession. If nature had been kinder and given Australia a Central mountain range highenough for snow and glaciers a large area that is now barren could have benefitted fromgood monsoon winds in the north and the Pacific air masses in the south. Ten times thepopulation could have made a living if this favor has been granted. But it is doubtfulwhether in such a case the country could have restricted itself to a White Australia, apoint of contributing to its uniqueness.. 2