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Australia and thence steam on from island to island, going from sea to sea and ocean to ocean until we have encompassed the globe.
Australia is the largest island of all, so large that it is classed with the continents. It is almost twice as large as all the countries of Europe without Russia and the Scandinavian Peninsula, and almost as large as the whole United States without Alaska, so large that we shall have to travel a thousand miles farther than from New York to London and back if we but sail around its coast. From east to west it is longer than the distance from the Hudson River to the Great Salt Lake, and from north to south its width is greater than the distance between Philadelphia and Denver.
This vast body of land as we look at it on the map is shaped somewhat like a great heart, but if we could view it as the sun sees it, we should find it composed of mighty plains tilted up at the edges and sloping towards the center somewhat like an enormous soup plate of irregular shape. At the eastern side we should see a range of mountains making that part of the plate the highest, and in the southeast Mount Kosciusko, the highest mountain of Australia, reaching almost a mile and a half above the sea and looking to us like a knob on the rim of the plate.
This island continent is largely a desert; the chief water-laden winds which come from the Pacific strike the range of mountains along the eastern coast, and the cold air squeezes them dry, so that when they pass over the interior of the continent they have no more water to lose. As a result the eastern slope of the mountains has a good rainfall, and there we find the chief rivers, the cultivated lands, the largest cities, and most of the people. In that part of Australia are some of the greatest sheep farms of the world, ranches which support thousands of cattle, dairy farms which produce butter for London, and fields of rye, wheat, and other crops like those of our central states. There are also cultivated lands near the coast in the north where the climate is not unlike that of Florida, . and where there are sugar plantations, groves of oranges, and fields of bananas.
There are scattering coast lands in the west and southwest which also can be used, but the most of the continent outside the eastern section is a dry and dreary desert. Some of it is as thirsty as Sahara, having vast regions of rock and sand through which we might ride for miles and see nothing but dusty scrub and bushes covered with thorns, where the only water to be found is in salt marshes or brackish lakes.
The Australian continent now belongs to the English. They claim it by right of exploration and settlement, having seized the lands from the black aborigines and driven them back until the natives now hold somewhat the same place that the Indians do in our country.
Australia was the last grand division of the earth to be visited by Europeans. It was discovered by Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch navigators, but it was not thought to be of any value until Captain James Cook, the great English explorer, made a tour along the east coast. This was about six years before we declared our independence of England. Captain Cook brought back glowing reports of the richness of the country,
and the English at once sent out and took possession of it. The first settlements were devoted to criminals who worked the land guarded by soldiers; but later on, when it was found that the climate was good and the soil fertile, other people came and the prison settlements were done away with.
By and by colonies were established in the best parts of the country. They grew rapidly, and now there are white people living in all of the habitable regions.
The continent is divided into great states or provinces. There is Western Australia comprising the whole western portion of the country, with Perth as its capital. The state is largely a desert, but is rich in gold and other minerals.
South Australia, with the northern territory which belongs to it, takes up the whole central portion. It has rich lands in the mountainous southeastern section and also in the far north, although all between is desert. Its capital is Adelaide, not far from the mouth of Murray River.
The eastern section of the continent is divided into the three states of Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland. Victoria at the south is very rich in gold and in farm and pasture lands. Its capital is the city of Melbourne, and it has many other large towns. New South Wales, just to the north, is much larger than Victoria and is also exceedingly rich. Its capital is Sydney, the principal port of Australia. Queensland, which takes up the vast country still farther north, includes all northeastern Australia. It is a land of pastures, farms, rich mines, and desert. Its capital is Brisbane.
For a long time each of these colonies had its own governor sent out from England, and its own parliament and officials elected by the people, and it was the same with the island of Tasmania just south of Australia. All of the colonies, including Tasmania, are now united as states in the commonwealth of Australia, which, although it practically governs itself, is still subordinate to the mother country, forming a part of the great British Empire.
We shall learn about the different states as we travel over them, imagining ourselves first in the city of Sydney ready to start
2. IN SYDNEY, THE NEW YORK OF AUS
EFORE we begin our exploration of Sydney, let us
stop a moment and think where we are. away south of the Equator on the other side of the globe. It was winter when we left the United States. It is summer here in Australia. Our watches are all wrong and we must change them if we would not be ever calculating the difference of time, and often turning night into day. There is more than nine hours' difference between New York and Sydney so that when our friends in the United States are going to bed we shall be just getting up, and breakfast time and dinner time will seem topsy-turvy. It will be still worse in Western Australia, which is farther away.
It took us twenty-one days to come from San Francisco to Sydney. The voyage was not wearisome, however, for