Australia's Geography (As You May Not Know It)August 15, 2014

"Geography is the key, the crucial accident of birth. A piece of protein could be a snail, a sea lion, or a systems analyst, but it had to start somewhere. This is not science; it is merely metaphor. And the landscape in which the protein 'starts' shapes its end as surely as bowls shape water."

- Annie Dillard

Geography is what defines us. The uniqueness of Australia is depicted countless times by local authors. But do we really know our own backyard?

Geography can be fun to learn. If the long list of quotes (by famous people) isn't enough, then stop reading. (We're pulling your leg!) You don't need to be a traveller to appreciate the following tidbits about Australia's geography. Don't be surprised if you don't know some of them.

Here they are:

1. Australia is the sixth largest country in the world. If you find it hard to believe, then consider Western Australia. It's the largest state, its size almost the same as Western Europe.

2. The Outback is one of the iconic images of the country. But the desert comprises eighteen percent of the landscape. This is rather surprising, as many explorers (from the nineteenth century) got sick while the hostile environment. Studies show Antarctica to be the driest continent in the world. Believe it or not.

3. This brings us to the subject of snow. Do you know that Snowy Mountains receive more snowfall than Switzerland? How can it be possible? It's rather complicated, as this phenomenon has something to do with the island's unique location. Does this mean the International Ski Federation (FIS) must include the Australian Alps in its World Cup circuit? It's not simple. (Maybe the FIS will give it some serious thought when Australia produce a skier as good as Ingemar Stenmark.)

4. No volcano is found in Down Under. If there is, then it will surely be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (This isn't a joke. The country's natural attractions lure millions of tourists every year. The number keeps on increasing.) But a volcanic eruption took place in the state of Victoria, which was 5,000 years ago.

5. You haven't been to the northern regions if you think that Tasmania is the only island in Australia. Apart from the island continent itself, Melville Island is the second largest isle after Tasmania. Melville, Bathurst Island, and nine uninhabited isles are part of the Tiwi Islands, which is located off Northern Territory.

6. Mount Kosciusko is Australia's highest mountain. But if we include the outside territories, then this peak is only the mainland's tallest. Mawson Peak, the highest point in Heard Island, is five hundred meters taller than Kosciusko. Heard and McDonald Islands are part of the volcanic group of barren Antarctic isles, about two-thirds of the way from Madagascar to Antarctica.

7. Australians who are from Queensland are called banana benders, while those from Western Australia are sandgropers. There's more to geography behind this.

Did we miss anything? Let us know.

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