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Lakes and Underground Water Most of the major natural lakes of Australia contain salt water. The great network of salt lakes in South Australia—Lake Eyre, Lake Torrens, Lake Frome, and Lake Gairdner—is the remains of a vast inland sea that once extended south from the Gulf of Carpentaria. During the dry season many of the salt lakes become salt-encrusted swamp beds or clay pans. Lake Argyle, created by the construction of the Ord River Scheme, is Australia's largest artificially created freshwater lake.Great areas of the interior, which otherwise would be useless for agriculture, contain water reserves beneath the surface of the land. These artesian water reserves, usually found at a great depth, are tapped by drilling to provide water essential for livestock. Artesian water reserves underlie about 2.5 million sq km (about 1 million sq mi) of Australia. The Great Artesian Basin, extending from the Gulf of Carpentaria into the northern part of New South Wales, includes more than 1.7 million sq km (700,000 sq mi). Other artesian basins are in the northwest, southeast, and along the Great Australian Bight.
Surrounded by beaches
They could spread out across more than 7 million square kilometres, but three in four Australians live within an hour's drive of the ocean. Fortunately, there's plenty of room for everyone's beach towel.
The world's largest island, Australia is skirted by 36,735 kilometres of coastline. Most of it consists of long stretches of white, sandy beaches, broken by secluded lakes and bays.
In the interest of modesty, it was illegal to swim at the beach during daylight hours or at inner-city beaches until 1902. Australians have been making up for lost time ever since.
The mining industry, long an important factor in the social and economic growth of Australia, holds great promise for the future development of the country. The gold discoveries of the 1850s were responsible for the first wave of immigration and for settlement of inland areas. Today, Australia is self-sufficient in most minerals of economic significance, and in a few cases is among the world's leading producers. Annual Australian production of coal, oil, natural gas, and metallic minerals was valued at about $12.4 billion in the early 1990s. Metallic minerals accounted for more than two-fifths percent of the total, with gold and iron ore the most significant components. Western Australia had the largest share of total mineral production, especially of metallic minerals.
Australia accounted for some 13 percent of the world's gold production in 1997......
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Christmas Island (1995 est. pop. 890), 60 sq mi (155 sq km), in the Indian Ocean, c.200 mi (320 km) S of Java. The majority of the inhabitants are Chinese and Malays who work the extensive phosphate deposits. The island was annexed by Great Britain in 1888 and became part of the former Straits Settlements in 1889. In 1958 it was ceded to Australia.
Despite the great expansion in mining and manufacturing after 1940, the prosperity of much of the country continues to be dependent on livestock raising and crop farming. The pastoral industry was established in the early days of settlement, when the first Spanish merino sheep were introduced from South Africa. The industry was a significant factor in Australian economic and historical development. Australia currently is the major world producer and exporter of wool, particularly fine merino, although income from wool exports is now less than one-tenth of the total export income of the country......
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Soils: All types of soils are found in varying quantities throughout the continent. Although more than 40 percent of the land consists of desert and sandy plains, suitable in places only for light grazing of sheep, soil resources are a significant factor in the Australian economy. Traditionally, the base of Australia's exports has been supplied by those who farm and graze the land, although the proportion of foreign earnings from farming has declined in recent years.Phosphate additives have been used extensively as soil fertilizers for many years; large areas of marginal land have been made more productive by the use of trace elements, such as zinc, copper, and manganese, and some new lands have been opened up to production. Criticism of the accumulating side effects of soil additives increased during the 1970s and 1980s, when it was demonstrated that soil acidification was affecting vast areas. During the same period, water runoff from fertilized soils was linked with periodic outbreaks of toxic blue-green algal blooms in the Murray-Darling Basin. Elsewhere, wind erosion in the semiarid pastoral and agricultural regions and water erosion in the wetter, deforested southeastern regions pose major problems. A local movement called Landcare won significant government support to address these problems. The ecological and economic threats to the soil and water are being countered by a wide range of technical and educational programs.
Australian languages, aboriginal languages spoken on the continent of Australia. The Australian languages do not appear to be related to any other linguistic family. The exact number of these languages and their dialects is not known, but has been estimated at about 200. Probably less than 100,000 persons still speak them. Many of the Australian languages have already died out. The Australian languages fall into two groups: the large Pama-Nyungan group, and the much smaller non-Pama-Nyungan group. Although their respective grammars exhibit a great degree of variation, the Australian languages still show many similarities. All of them inflect the noun, some having as many as nine cases. The verb lacks a passive voice. Postpositions are used instead of the prepositions typical of Indo-European languages. Most of the Australian languages have three markings for number: singular, dual, and plural. Word order tends to follow a similar pattern in the different tongues. They also show considerable similarity phonetically and have a small common vocabulary. Because of so many shared phonetic and grammatical characteristics some scholars believe that the Australian languages have all evolved from a single ancestor language and therefore belong to the same linguistic family. Others, however, feel that the term “Australian languages” constitutes a geographical rather than a linguistic classification. To date, few of these languages have been studied intensively; classification and other matters remain uncertain.
See S. A. Wurm, Languages of Australia and Tasmania (1972); R. M. W. Dixon, The Languages of Australia (1980).
The Australian continent extends from east to west some 2,400 mi (3,860 km) and from north to south nearly 2,000 mi (3,220 km). It is on the whole exceedingly flat and dry. Less than 20 in. (50.8 cm) of precipitation falls annually over 70% of the land area. From the narrow coastal plain in the west the land rises abruptly in what, from the sea, appear to be mountain ranges but are actually the escarpments of a rough plateau that occupies the western half of the continent. It is generally from 1,000 to 2,000 ft (305–610 m) high but several mountain ranges rise to nearly 5,000 ft (1,520 m); there are no permanent rivers or lakes in the region. In the southwest corner of the continent there is a small moist and fertile area, but the rest of Western Australia is arid, with large desert areas.
The northern region fronts partly on the Timor Sea, separating Australia from Indonesia....
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1,702 mi (2,739 km) long, rising in the Eastern Highlands, NE New South Wales and SE Queensland, Australia, and flowing SW across New South Wales into the Murray River at Wentworth. It is the longest river in Australia. Although it receives numerous tributaries in its upper course, the Darling has dried up on several occasions. The river is used extensively for irrigation. It was visited in 1828 by Charles Sturt, an English explorer
Climate The climate of Australia varies greatly from region to region, but the continent is not generally subject to marked extremes of weather. The climate ranges from tropical (monsoonal) in the north to temperate in the south. The tropical region, which includes about 40 percent of the total area of Australia, essentially has only two seasons: a hot, wet period with rains falling mainly in February and March, during which the northwestern monsoons prevail; and a warm, dry interval characterized by the prevalence of southeastern winds. Many points on the northern and northeastern coast have an average annual rainfall of 1,500 mm (60 in); in parts of Queensland average annual rainfall exceeds 2,500 mm (100 in). On the fringe of the monsoonal region are the drier savanna grasslands, where the low, unreliable rainfall is supplemented by artesian water. In central and northern Australia average summer temperatures range between 27° and 29°C (80° and 85°F). The deserts of central and western Australia, making up more than two-thirds of the area, have an annual rainfall of less than 250 mm (10 in).The warm, temperate regions of southern Australia have four seasons, with cool winters and warm summers. Because Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, seasons there are the reverse of those in the Northern Hemisphere. January and February are the warmest months, with average temperatures varying between 18° and 21°C (65° and 70°F). June and July are the coldest months, with an average July temperature of about 10°C (about 50°F), except in the Australian Alps, where temperatures average 2°C (35°F). The eastern coastal lowlands receive rain in all seasons, although mainly in summer. The warm, temperate western and southern coasts receive rain mainly in the winter months, usually from prevailing westerly winds. Tasmania, lying in the cool temperate zone, receives heavy rainfall from the prevailing westerly winds in summer and from cyclonic storms in winter. Over the greater part of the lowlands, snow is unknown; however, in the mountains, particularly the Australian Alps in southern New South Wales and the northern part of Victoria, snowfall is occasionally heavy.All of the southern states are exposed to hot, dry winds from the interior, which can suddenly raise the temperature considerably. In most years, parts of the continent experience drought conditions and smaller localities are ravaged by floods and tropical cyclones. Southeastern Australia, including Tasmania, has among the highest incidences of serious bushfires in the world, along with California in the United States and Mediterranean Europe. In 1994, notably, bushfires swept through New South Wales and destroyed several hundred homes in suburban Sydney
Natural Resources Australia is rich in mineral resources, notably bauxite, coal, diamonds, gold, iron ore, mineral sands, natural gas, nickel, petroleum, and uranium. Readily cultivatable farmland is at a premium because much of the land is desert. Australia, however, has become one of the leading agricultural producers in the world by applying modern irrigation techniques to vast tracts of arid soil.
Northern Territory, territory (1991 pop. 132,780), 520,280 sq mi (1,347,525 sq km), N central Australia. It is bounded on the N by the Timor Sea, the Arafura Sea, and the Gulf of Carpentaria. Darwin is the territorial capital. In the north are lowlands, in the southeast are low plains sloping toward the Lake Eyre depression, and in the southwest are the MacDonnell Ranges. The main rivers are the Victoria, Daly, Adelaide, and Roper, all of which drain into the northern seas. The climate in the north is tropical, with a monsoon season; the south becomes colder and drier as the elevation rises.
About three fourths of the population live in the Darwin and Alice Springs metropolitan areas. Australian aborigines represent nearly one fourth of the Northern Territory's population and own the land of 15 reservations with a total area of 94,000 sq mi (243,460 sq km); the Arnhem Land preserve is the largest. Much of this land is important to the uranium mining and tourist industries.
Australian Land and Resources
Australia is primarily a flat low-lying plateau, with about 95% of the land standing less than 600 m (1,970 ft) above sea level. The continent was not affected by recent geological mountain-building forces, and all its landforms are highly eroded; Australia's mountains reach only 2,228 m (7,310 ft) in Mount Kosciusko in southeastern New South Wales.....
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