20 Interesting Facts About Australia
Are you planning a visit to Australia? There's plenty to see and do, but before you hop on a plane there are a few things you'll need to know. We've put together a list of the 20 things you never knew about the "Land Down Under".
Things you may not have known about Australia:
1. ...the world's smallest continent. Not counted as an island, if it were, it would be the world's biggest island being 3 times bigger than Greenland.
2. ...the world's flattest continent. Though the tallest mountain on Australia's mainland, Mount Kosciuszko, is no glorified hill at 2,228 metres, the rest of Australia consists mainly of desert with little significant undulation.
3. ...the driest inhabited continent. Australia is second only to Antarctica as the driest continent in the world (i.e. there is little liquid water). Since there are no permanent human settlements in Antarctica, Australia qualifies as the driest inhabited continent.
4. ...the world's 6th largest country. Australia is less than half the size of the world's largest country (Russia) and it's over twice as large as the next nearest country (India).
5. ...one of the least densely populated countries in the world. Interesting that the country's great size is not matched by a huge population, just 21.5 million people. This makes it one of the least densely populated countries in the world with about 2 or 3 people per km² (The USA has 31 per km², the UK has 246 per km² and Bangladesh which has over 1,000 per km²!).
6. ...the highest number of beaches in the world. With 50,000 kms of coastline there are no less than 10,000 beaches. This, and the fact that 85% of the population lives within 50kms of the coast, makes it easy to understand why Australia is known for an easy-living lifestyle.
7. ...many natural wonders. The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest reef and is also home to the world's largest Oyster at 3 kilograms. In the Bass Strait, close to Tasmania, there's the world's heaviest crab at 14 kilograms. Mount Augustus, as is Uluru, is in contention to be the world's largest monolith (i.e. a mountain made from a single piece of rock). In Gippsland you'll find the world's longest earthworm which comes in at a staggering 4 metres!
8. ...some of the most unusual Fauna. Australia was one of the first landmasses to break off the super continent Gondwana. As a result Australia has some unique forms of wildlife. The most obvious of these are the Marsupials, which keep their young in a pouch such as Kangaroos. Though not unique to Australia, the marsupials here have been a great deal more successful than marsupials elsewhere in the world. Less conspicuous are the birds and fish of Australia, many of which are unique to this part of the world as well.
9. ...a great variety of flora. Australia is home to about 25,000 different species of plants which is significantly more that the larger and more climatically diverse Europe which has over 17,000.
10. ...great ethnic diversity. Similar to North America, Australia is very much populated by immigrants or descendants from immigrants. Most (90%) Australians today are of European descent, in particular England, Ireland and Scotland.
Though contrary to myth, they are not all descended from convicts. Most people in the initial waves of immigrants were in fact free men. An increasingly significant minority are immigrants from Asia, mainly Vietnam, China, India and the Philippines.
11. ...the Aborigines. The Aborigines are thought to be the world's oldest civilisation. There's evidence of Aborigines living on the continent for upwards of 50,000 years. Far from being simply hunter-gatherers, the Aborigines were quite advanced having invented the aerodynamically complex Boomerang and a unique type of throwing spear called a Woomera. They're also possibly the first peoples to make cutting stone tools.
12. ...a very inventive population. Perhaps inspired by the native Aborigines, there have been many interesting inventions coming out of Australia. These include the surf lifesaving reel, aspirin, the pacemaker, penicillin, the bionic ear, the anti-counterfeiting technology for banknotes, long-wearing contact lenses and much more.
13. ...lots of opals. Australia produces 95 per cent of the world's precious opals! These are primarily mined from the underground town of Coober Pedy in South Australia. The world's largest opal was found there in 1990 and weighs in at an impressive 5.27 kilograms.
14. ...lots of gold. The town of Kalgoorlie was founded in Western Australia during a gold rush in 1893. The mine is an open cut mine, approximately 3.6 kilometres long, 1.6 kilometres wide, 512 metres deep and it still produces gold to this day. The town is part of the world's largest political electorate constituency which measures an overwhelming 2.2 million square kilometres.
15. ...lots of uranium. In 2005, Australia produced 20% of the worlds Uranium. This makes it the second largest producer of Uranium in the world. With fossil fuels running out and nuclear power increasing in importance, Australia could well become the most important fuel producing nation in the coming century.
16. ...lots of wool. Australia is home to some 85 million sheep, that's four times the human population! The breed used is mostly Merinos and as a result Australia is the world's biggest producer of wool.
17. ...lots of beef. It's not just the sheep that outnumber the humans, the cattle outnumber them also. With over 25 million cattle, Australia is the world's largest exporter of beef.
18. ...the world's longest piece of straight railway track. Found in South Australia's Nullarbor Plain is this 478 kilometres stretch of railway.
19. ...the world's longest fence. The native Dingoes would like nothing better than to get at the sheep farms of Australia. To keep the sheep safe a fence was constructed and this fence measures 5,531 kilometres through Queensland and South Australia!
20. ...the world's longest stretch of straight road. The straight section is 148 kms long and is just a section of the 2,700 road which connects Adelaide to Perth, called the Eyre Highway.