Page images
PDF
EPUB

related to the country north of the Kirchner range, constitute, like the Andes of South America, a regular watered by the Lynd, the Mitchell, the Walsh, and the Cordillera, stretching from north to south 1700 miles in Palmer Rivers, on the east side of the Gulf of Carpentaria. length, with an average height of 1500 feet above the sea. The coasting expedition of Mr G. Elphinstone Dalrymple, The rivers flowing down the eastern slope, having but with Messrs Hill and Johnstone, finishing in December short courses before they reach the sea, are of a more 1873, effected a valuable survey of the inlets and navigable determined character than those which take a westerly and rivers in the Cape York peninsula. The Endeavour River, inland direction. They cut their way through the sandin S. lat. 16°, which was visited by Captain Cook a stone rocks in deep ravines; but from their tortuous and hundred years ago, seems capable of being used for communi- violent course, and from the insufficient volume of water, cation with the country inland. A newly discovered river, they are unfit for navigation. Very few of them traverse the Johnstone or Gladys, is said to flow through a very more than 200 miles, inclusive of windings, or pass through rich land, producing the finest cedars, with groves of any district extending more than 50 miles inland. It is bananas, nutmeg, ginger, and other tropical plants. The different with the Murray, flowing westward, which has a colonial geologists predict that the north-east corner of course of 1100 miles, traversing a space from east to west Australia will be found to possess great mineral treasures. measuring 8° of longitude. The Murray is navigable At the opposite extremity of the continent, its south-west during eight months of the year along a great part of corner, a tour lately made by Mr A. Forrest, Government its course. This great river, with its tributaries, drains surveyor, from the Swan River eastward, and thence a basin the area of which is reckoned at half a million of down to the south coast, has shown the poorness of that square miles. Yet it has no proper outlet to the sea, deregion. The vast superiority of eastern Australia to all bouching into a lagoon called Lake Alexandrina, on the the rest is the most important practical lesson taught by sea-coast of Encounter Bay. On the opposite or norththe land-exploring labours of the last half century. western part of the continent there are several important

Physical Description. The continent of Australia, with water-courses. One river, the Victoria, which rises somea circumference of nearly 8000 miles, presents a contour where about 18° or 19° S. lat. and 131° E. long., flows wonderfully devoid of inlets from the sea, except upon its northward to 15° 30' S. lat., where it turns westward. northern shores, where the coast line is largely indented. Its bed forms a deep channel through the sandstone tableThe Gulf of Carpentaria, situated in the north, is enclosed land, with cliffs 300 feet high, while in width it sometimes on the east by the projection of Cape York, and on the extends to half a mile, its depth varying from 50 feet west by Arnhem Land, and forms the principal bay on to as many fathoms. The Victoria debouches into Camthe whole coast, measuring about 6° of long. by 6° of lat. bridge Gulf, 14° 14' S. lat. and 129° 30' E. long., an Further to the west, Van Diemen’s Gulf, though much estuary 20 miles broad, with a depth of 8 or 10 fathoms. smaller, forms a better protected bay, having Melville To the westward of this district run two other large rivers, Island between it and the ocean; while beyond this the Prince Regent and the Glenelg, the latter being naviQueen's Channel and Cambridge Gulf form inlets about S. gable, with a fertile country on its banks. The Roper, a lat. 14° 50'. On the north-west of the continent the coast navigable stream in Arnhem Land, has a width of 500 line is much broken, the chief indentations being Admiralty to 800 yards 40 or 50 miles from its mouth, which is at the Gulf, Collier Bay, and King Sound, on the shores of Limmen Bight in the Gulf of Carpentaria. In the more Tasman Land. Western Australia, again, is not favoured settled and inhabited provinces of Australia there are the with many inlets—Exmouth Gulf and Shark Bay being Brisbane, the Fitzroy, and the Burdekin, rivers of Queensthe only bays of any size. The same remark may be land; the Glenelg River, of Victoria ; and the Swan River, made of the rest of the sea-board ; for, with the exception of West Australia. But this continent cannot boast of a of Spencer Gulf, the Gulf of St Vincent, and Port Phillip, Nile, an Indus, or a Mississippi, and the interior suffers on the south, and Moreton Bay, Hervey Bay, and Broad from the want of water communication. Sound, in the east, the coast line is singularly uniform. Geology. The interior plain of Australia, enclosed by

The conformation of the interior of Australia is very the coast mountain ranges, is a vast concave table of sandpeculiar, and may perhaps be explained by the theory of stone, with a surface area of 1,500,000 square miles. The the land having been, at a comparatively recent period, the sedimentary rock, in some parts, has been washed away or bed of an ocean. The mountain ranges parallel to the scooped out; but in the opinion of Mr W. H. L. Ranken east and west coasts would then have existed as the cliffs (Dominion of Australia, 1874), the edges of the plateau, and uplands of many groups of islands, in widely scat- where highest and least reduced by denudation, are actually tered archipelagoes resembling those of the Pacific. The formed of this sediment. While the southern margin of singular positions and courses of some of the rivers lend the plain consists of walls of sandstone cliffs, extending force to this supposition. The Murray and its tributaries, the along the sea-coast, the plateau on the east, south-east, the Murrumbidgee, the Lachlan, and the Darling, rising from west, and partly on the north, is bordered by terraced the mountains on the east coast, flow inwards so far that ramparts of mountains. These elevations consist of granite they were at one time supposed to issue in a central sea. and syenite on the west side, rising from 1000 to 3000 They do, in fact, spend their waters in a large shallow lake; feet in height. On the east side, in New South Wales and but this is not far from the south coast, and is provided Gipps' Land, they rise to a much greater height, attaining with an outlet to the ocean. The Macquarie and the 7000 feet at the south-east corner in the Australian Alps. Lachlan

merge in extensive swamps, and their beds in the Here, too, the sandstone masses are often violently rent dry season become a mere chain of ponds. This agrees asunder, and mingled with the overflows of igneous matter, with the idea that the whole country was a sea-bottom, forming basalt and trap. On the north side of the conwhich has scarcely yet assumed the character of permanent tinent, except around the Gulf of Carpentaria, the edge of dry land, while another proof consists in the thinness and the sandstone table-land has a great elevation; it is cut by sterility of the soil in the lowlands.

the Alligator River into gorges 3800 feet deep. Along the entire line of the east coast there extends In examining more particularly the geological structure succession of mountain ranges from Portland, in Victoria, of eastern Australia, we must take into account the neighto Cape York in the extreme north, called in different parts bouring island of Tasmania. The late Count Strzelecki, the Australian Grampians, the Australian Alps, the Blue author of the first scientific essay upon the subject, in Mountains, the Liverpool Range, and other names. These 1845, after minutely describing all the mountain ranges of

New South Wales, passes on to Wilson Promontory, the continents of our globe. Mr Clarke doubts the origin of most southerly point of Australia, whence he looks sea some of the more ancient slates mentioned in the “first epoch” ward at the islands in Bass's Strait. As he there observes the of Count Strzelecki, and does not find, either in eastern or Tasmanian mountains, with which he is equally familiar, it in southern Australia, sufficient proof that these regions occurs to him that the whole is the result of identical forces, contain azoic and metamorphic rocks. Large masses of operating in a direction from north-east to south-west. granite occur along the coast, and more extensively in Such phenomena he ascribes to a series of “volcanoes of Western Australia. Of the lower Palæozoic there is a great elevation," along a vast fissure of the earth, upon the line deal of Upper Silurian rock in New South Wales and regarded by him as the Australian eastern axis of pertur Queensland, and some in Tasmania. It is in the Lower bation.” These forces he believes to have been exerted, with Silurian formation, as Sir Roderick Murchison predicted, different degrees of intensity, at four several epochs, which that gold deposits are chiefly found. Rocks of the Devonian are indicated by the character of the sedimentary rocks, period are not yet proved to exist anywhere in Australia, broken through or contorted by the eruptive greenstone and and it is doubtful if any true Permian or Trias, so common basalt. That eruptive action is seen in the ravines and elsewhere, have been met with in this continent. The precipices of the Blue Mountains near Sydney ; in the great Carboniferous series is very prominent in New South Grose valley, below Mount Hay and its neighbours, Mount Wales and in parts of Queensland; it prevails less in King George and Mount Tomah ; but still more remark- Victoria. Coal-beds, of thickness varying from 3 feet to ably in the mountains of Tasmania, viewed from Ben 30 feet, are found associated, both above and below, with Lomond, within 30 miles of Launceston. The sedimentary fossils resembling those of the Carboniferous strata in deposits of the first epoch are characterised by the presence Ireland. Their antiquity is proved beyond question, in of mica slate, and of argillaceous and siliceous slate, as well some districts, as in the valley of the Hawkesbury, where as by the absence of gneiss. Those of the second epoch they are overlaid with beds of sandstone, shale, and conare found to be arenaceous, calcareous, or argillaceous glomerate, 1000 feet thick. It has been shown by Mr stratified deposits. The third epoch includes the coal Daintree that there is a very extensive distribution of the deposits, with their intervening shales and sandstones, Secondary or Mesozoic rocks in Queensland—the Cretaceous including many fossils; while the fourth and last epoch is strata, both there and in Western Australia, covering a large marked by the occurrence of elevated peaks, and by the area. The Oolitic are more abundant in Western Australia. remains of land animals found in the limestone caves or in The great plains of the interior, and the slopes of the alluvial deposits.

inner mountain ranges, consist largely of deposits of the The Rev. W. B. Clarke, of Sydney, again, in a revised Tertiary epoch. They occupy an immense area in Victoria treatise published in 1871, expresses a doubt whether the and New South Wales, including the Riverina district, southern range of mountains, extending to Wilson's Pro- which was probably, as Mr Brough Smith considers, montory, be really a continuation of the main Cordillera of levelled and planed down by the ancient vast expansion of New South Wales. He rather considers this to be pro- the Murray. “The waves of the sea,” he remarks, "and longed in westerly direction, taking a bend that way at the waters of this river, have eaten away mountains of the Warragong or Snowy Alps, and to be continued within granite and great hills of schist in past times, and placed 60 miles of the border of South Australia, which is on the instead of them a smooth covering of sands and clays." 141st meridian of E. long. The subject is further dis- The great basin east of Port Phillip, connected with cussed by Mr R. Brough Smith, of Melbourne, in his essay another basin about Westernport, is underlaid with Mesozoic of 1872 on the mineralogy and rock formations of Victoria. carbonaceous rocks, upper Miocene, a nodular basalt, and This geologist has also remarked that the Murray, which decomposed amygdaloid of older volcanic origin, the must have repeatedly shifted its bed and changed its out- quartzose drift of the first Pliocene formations, and some let, may have once been a far more powerful stream, flood volcanic products of more recent date. Here the Miocene ing a vast tract of the interior, and thus becoming an effective beds abound with fossil leaves of plants belonging to that agent in the geological formations of all south-east Aus- age. The sands, clays, and gravels of later periods, in the tralia. It has produced, in Victoria more especially, the ancient beds of the streams within the Silurian areas, are Tertiary stratifications which are equivalent to the Pliocene more or less auriferous.

Some of the deeper “ leads ” of rocks of Europe.

the gold-miner contain fossil fruits and the trunks and Throughout the whole of eastern Australia, including branches of trees, which are described by Baron von New South Wales and Queensland, while no tertiary marine Müller in the Melbourne official reports of the mining deposits have been found, there occur many remarkable surveyors. In the Ballarat gold-fields the auriferous quartbeds of siliceous sandstone, bearing impressions of ferns zose gravels are overlaid by flows of lava and vesicular and leaves of trees, which are referred to the Tertiary epoch. volcanic rocks, while in a neighbouring district south of

An interesting theory is advanced by Mr Clarke to account Ballarat, pebbles and sand are cemented by ferruginous for the absence of Tertiary deposits on the eastern coast, matter into an extremely hard conglomerate. when they are found on the western and southern coasts In eastern Australia, where no Tertiary marine deposits of Australia. In the islands of New Caledonia and other are met with, there are deep accumulations of drift, such as Australasian groups, from the Louisiade, near New Guinea, transmuted beds of the Carboniferous formation, porphyry, to New Zealand, there is a repetition of Australian geo- and basalt, and other igneous rocks, and fragments of the logical formations, and there are abundant Tertiary deposits; older Palæozoic strata. Many of the drift streams are not and this may confirm the supposition that the Australian only highly auriferous, but contain gems of all kinds. continent at some period extended farther to the east, Diamonds, though of small size, have been taken from the and that a vast portion has disappeared under the Cudgegong River, near Mudgee, in New South Wales, and

To the same hypothetical cause Mr Darwin likewise from the Macquarie River. ascribes the formation of the Great Barrier Reef, stretch In the eastern plains of the interior, embedded in black ing along the east coast from S. lat. 22° 23' to Torres muddy trappean soil, are found the bones of enormous Strait, with an interval between it and the land varying animals of the marsupial or kangaroo order, as well as from 12 to 140 miles.

birds, fishes, and reptiles. The accumulations of bones in With regard to the more remote geological epochs, Aus caverns at Wellington, New South Wales, and on the rivers tralia presents fewer materials for study than the other Colo, Macleay, and Coodradigbee, are of great interest.

ocean,

A femur bone of the dinornis, the gigantic extinct bird of Hartley, Maitland, and Berrima, now connected by railway New Zealand, has been discovered in the drift on Peak with the capital. Downs in eastern Australia, at the depth of 188 feet; and In each of the places above named there is iron of a this would lead to the belief that land once existed where now superior quality, the working of which to advantage cannot the Pacific Ocean separates by a thousand miles two be long delayed. On the Illawarra coast it is found close countries of Australasia, whose present animal and vege. to the finest bituminous coal, and to limestone. The iron table races have so little in common.

of New South Wales is mostly hæmatite, and the ironstone Minerals.—The useful and precious metals exist in contains from 60 to 70 per cent. of ore. considerable quantities in each of the five provinces of Among other mineral products of the same region are Australia. New South Wales has abundance of gold, cannel coal and shale yielding kerosene oil.

This is a recopper, iron, and coal, as well as silver, lead, and tin. cognised article of export from New South Wales to the The mineral riches of Victoria, though almost confined to other colonies. It is hardly worth while to speak of diagold, have been the main cause of her rapid progress. monds, opals, and precious stones, but they are often picked South Australia possesses the most valuable copper mines. up, though of small size, along the Mudgee and AberQueensland ranks next to the last-named province for cop-crombie Rivers, and at Beechworth and Daylesford, in Vicper, and excels her neighbours in the production of tin, toria. while gold, iron, and coal are also found in considerable Climate. — The Australian continent, extending over quantities. In Western Australia mines of lead, silver, and 28' of latitude, might be expected to show a considercopper have been opened ; and there is much ironstone. able diversity of climate. In reality, however, it experi

The discovery of gold in New South Wales and Victoria ences fewer climatic variations than the other great contook place in 1851, and during the next twenty years Vic- tinents, owing to its distance (28°) from the Antarctic circle toria exported 40,750,000 oz. of the precious metal, while and (119) from the equator. There is, besides, a powerful New South Wales, from 1851 to 1871, exported nearly determining cause in the uniform character and undivided 10,000,000 ounces. The Queensland gold mines, since extent of its dry interior plain. On this subject Mr 1860, have displayed increasing promise; up to the end Ranken, in his Dominion of Australia, remarks –"A of 1872 they had yielded rather less than 1,000,000 basin having its northern portion in the tropics, it acts like ounces; but much was expected, at a more recent date, an oven under the daily sun. It becomes daily heated ; from the Palmer River and other districts of the north. then its atmosphere expands; but such is its immensity The yearly value of the aggregate gold exports of Australia, that no sufficient supply of moist sea air from the neighon the average of fifteen years, has been £10,000,000. Vic-bouring oceans can reach it, to supply the vacancy

caused toria alone has produced gold to the value of £170,000,000. by this expansion. Of an almost perfectly flat surface, The alluvial gold-fields, in which the early diggers, with there is no play for currents of air upon it; only the heat the simplest tools, obtained for a short time large quantities is daily absorbed and nightly radiated. Such is the heat, of the coveted ore, seem now to be mostly exhausted. It that in the summer the soil is more like a fire than an oven; is in the quartz formations of the mountain ranges, the air, if it moves, is like a furnace-blast; and such its exor in those at a great depth underground, reached by tent and sameness, that as great heat may prevail hundreds the sinking of shafts and regular mining operations, of miles south as north of the tropics." This continual that Australian gold is henceforth to be chiefly procured. radiation of heat is sometimes relieved—though not with There are mines in Victoria 1000 feet deep, as at Clunes, the regularity of an annual season, indeed rather at uncerothers from 300 to 600 feet.

tain intervals of several years—by the admission of masses The copper mines of Burra Burra, in South Australia, of vapour, drawn in from the Pacific or the Indian Ocean. proved very profitable some twenty-five years ago, yielding Great masses of clouds, after labouring many months to in a twelvemonth ore to the value of £350,000, and the reach the interior from the sea, succeed in passing over the Moonta mines, in 1872, were scarcely less productive. sea-bound mountains, and spread themselves in floods of The province of South Australia, in that year, exported rain upon the inland country. The north-west shore, and copper to the amount of £800,000. Queensland, in 1873, that of Carpentaria, are favoured with an annual visitation produced one-fourth that quantity. Tin, an article of of the monsoons, from December to March, penetrating as great mercantile interest, is divided between Queensland far as 500 miles into the continent, where the sands of the and New South Wales in a frontier district, two-thirds of desert are driven in wavy heaps by the force of this wind. the extent of which belongs to the Darling Downs, within the But South Australia, though it feels a cool sea breeze from last-mentioned province. There is a little tin, also, in some the south-west, gets little rain, for lack of any mountain parts of Victoria. Lead, silver, and cinnabar have been range parallel with the coast to arrest and condense the obtained not only in New South Wales, but likewise in passing vapours. The yearly rainfall at Adelaide and Western Australia.

Gawler is therefore not more than 15 or 20 inches, while The abundance of good iron ore, in convenient vicinity at the head of Spencer Gulf it is but 6 or 8. In Victoria to thick beds of excellent coal, ensures a future career of and in New South Wales, on the contrary, where a wall manufacturing prosperity to New South Wales, and not of mountain fronts the ocean, most places on the sea-board less to Queensland. The country north and south of Syd- enjoy a fair allowance of rain. It is 32 inches at Portland, ney, and west of that city 100 miles inland to the dividing nearly 26 inches at Melbourne; at Sydney and Newcastle, range of mountains, is all of Carboniferous formation. At on the east coast, as much as 48 and 44 inches in the year. the mouth of the Hunter River, from the port and town But at Brisbane, in Queensland, farther north, it amounts of Newcastle, coal was exported in 1873 to the value of to 50 inches; at Rockingham Bay, in latitude 18° S., where £1,000,000 sterling. The collieries there taken up have the hills are covered with dense forests, the rainfall in 1871 an extent of 35,000 acres, but the area of the coal-field is was no less than 90 inches. In every part, however, of officially estimated at 10,000,000 acres, and the seams this magnificent highland region, the supply of moisture is are 9 feet to 11 feet thick. The quality of this coal is said rapidly diminished by passing inland ; so that very little to be equal to that of Great Britain for most furnace pur- remains to fall on the interior or western slopes of the coast poses, and it is generally used by steamships in the Pacific ranges, and to irrigate the interior plains. and Chinese navigation. Next in importance are the With regard to the temperature, the northern regions of Wollongong collieries, south of Sydney, and those of the continent being situated within the tropic of Capricorn,

and many

resemble the parts of South America and South Africa, | Tasmania has been made by Baron Ferdinand von Miiller, that are situated in corresponding latitudes,

The sea

the Government botanist at Melbourne. He believes that, ward districts of New South Wales seem in this respect omitting the minute fungi, there will not be found above to be like Southern Europe. The mean annual tempera- 10,000 species of Australian plants. The standard authority ture of Sydney is 62° 4' Fahr., almost equal to that of upon this subject, so far as it could be known sixty years Lisbon in Portugal. The inland plains of this colony, how- ago, but now requiring to be completed and extended, was ever, west of the Blue Mountains, which suffer much from the Prodromus Flore Novæ Hollandiæ, published in 1810 by evaporation, experience in summer a heat which rises Jr Robert Brown of the British Museum. Besides making to 109° Fahr. in the shade, and sometimes as high as personal observations from 1802 to 1805, he had classified 140°. There are highland districts, on the contrary, such the collections procured by Sir Joseph Banks when Captain as Kiandra, 4640 feet above the sea-level, where frost, Cook's ship visited the eastern shore. Upon that occasion, snow, and hail are endured through the winter. On the in 1769, the name of Botany Bay was given to an inlet Australian Alps, cold being more intense in the dry air, near Port Jackson, from the variety of new specimens the limit of perpetual snow comes down to 7145 feet. The found there. Baron von Müller's Report of 1857 on the days on which rain falls in the coast regions of New South researches made by him alone in the North Australian Wales average from 100 to 150 in the year, and the amount exploring expedition under Mr Gregory, exhibits 2000 from 20 inches to 50 inches, decreasing generally farther new species, representing more than 800 genera, which inland.

belong to 160 different orders. He could discover no new In winter, in New South Wales, the prevalent winds natural order, or fundamental form of the vegetable kingblow from the west, with occasional storms of wind and dom, in a minute examination of the flora of Arnhem rain from the eastward ; while the autumn months have Land, the country around the Gulf of Carpentaria, and the much cloudy weather, not accompanied by rain. January Victoria River, but 60 genera were found that had not been and February are the hottest months of summer, and July noticed by any earlier Australian botanist. the coldest month of winter.

The eastern parts of this continent, New South Wales With regard to the climate of Victoria, Mr Robert Ellery, and Queensland, are very much richer, both in their botany Government astronomer at Melbourne, in his report of and in their zoology, than any other parts of Australia. 1872, furnishes exact information. The mean annual | Much was done here for the former science, half a century temperature at Melbourne during fourteen years was 57°:6, ago, by Mr Allan Cunningham, whose monumental obelisk and that of the whole province 56°•8, including stations fitly stands in the Botanic Garden at Sydney. In general, 2000 feet or 1400 feet above the sea-level at Daylesford the growth of trees on the north and north-west coasts is

This is equivalent to the mean annual wanting in size and regularity, compared with their growth temperature of Marseilles and Florence, in the northern in eastern Australia. To the last-mentioned region, for hemisphere, but the climate of Melbourne is much more instance, the pines are entirely confined; here the Moreton equable than that of the Mediterranean shores. The Bay pine, and Bunya Bunya pine, of the genus Araucaria, lowest temperature yet recorded has been 27°, or 5° below growing to 150 feet in height, yield excellent timber. The the freezing point; the highest, 111° in the shade, occurring red cedar, the iron bark, the blue gum-tree, and others during one of the hot winds, called “ brickfielders,” which, useful to the carpenter, belong likewise to the eastern loaded with dust, occasionally blow for a few hours in highlands. The Casuarina, or she-oak, is found on the summer. At Sandhurst, 778 feet above the sea, the greatest shores of Carpentaria and in the interior, but not on the extremes of temperature yet observed were 117° and 27°.5; banks of the Victoria River to the north-west. Of the at Ballarat the extreme of winter cold was 10° below Eucalyptus, or gum-tree, Australia has 400 species; but the freezing

one most uniformly distributed is the Eucalyptus rostrata The amount of humidity in the air is liable to great or acuminata, called the flooded gum-tree; its timber is and rapid variations in the summer months. It is some- durable, and takes a fine polish. Rosewood, tulip-wood, times reduced as much as 60 per cent. within a few sandal-wood, and satin-wood, with other materials for the hours, by the effect of hot dry winds. But this is com cabinetmaker's ornamental work, abound in the forests of pensated by an access of moisture upon a change of wind. Queensland. The forest scenery of the more northerly The annual average rainfall at Melbourne, which for districts, within the tropics, and onwards to Rockingham thirty years is stated 25.66 inches, does not seem less Bay, is described as of great luxuriance. It consists of than that of places in similar latitudes in other parts of the many kinds of large umbrageous trees, some of an Indian world. Yet it proves inadequate, because of the great type, intermixed with noble araucarias, all matted together amount of evaporation, estimated by Professor Neumayer in an impervious thicket by lianes of the convolvulus, the at 42 inches.

calamus, and other plants, climbing or pendent, harbouring The spring season in Victoria, consisting of the months in their shade many parasitical orchids and ferns. Such of September, October, and November, is genial and forests overhang the seaward sides of the mountain ranges, pleasant, with some rain. The summer-December, January, where they inhale abundant moisture from the winds of and February—is generally hot and dry, though its first the Pacific Ocean, and feed upon a congenial soil from the month is sometimes broken by storms of cold wind and decomposition of schistose rocks. heavy rain. In February the north winds assume the A striking contrast is offered to the view beyond the coast character of siroccos, and bush-fires often devastate the ranges. The interior of Queensland presents either highgrassy plains and forests of the inland country. The land downs of basaltic origin, almost bare of trees, but autumn months--March, April, and May—are, in general, with abundant herbaceous vegetation, good pasture grass, the most agreeable; and at this season vegetable life is and an immense quantity of vervain, or the Brigalow refreshed, and puts forth a growth equal to that of the scrub, merely shrubs and small trees, on a soil of argillacespring. The winter is June, July, and August, with strong, ous sandstone. The sandstone table-lands, again, naked dry, cold winds from the north, alternating with frequent and dry, produce but a few diminutive eucalypti, and rain from the opposite quarter; there is little ice or snow, sparse tufts of uneatable grasses, while the inland deserts except in the mountain districts.

have only the acacia to break the monotony of the scene. Botany. -A probable computation of the whole number The character of the inland flora adds confirmation to the of distinct vegetable species indigenous to Australia and belief that the interior was formerly a marine soil, which

[ocr errors]

has not yet been deprived of its saline properties. In the but the marsupials alone constitute two-thirds of all the districts farthest removed from the action of fresh water, Australian species of mammals. It is the well-known hundreds of miles are covered with such plants as will peculiarity of this order that the female has a pouch or grow on the sea-shore, e.g., the mesembryanthemum called fold of skin upon her abdomen, in which she can place the pig's face or Hottentot fig. Other species belonging to young for suckling within reach of her teats. The opossum the coastward uplands seem to have been conveyed into the of America is the only species out of Australasia which is interior by the action of water, as the belts of timber, and thus provided. Australia is inhabited by at least 110 of pine or cypress scrub, are always found to extend along different species of marsupials, which have been arranged in the line of direction taken by floods. They grow on sandy five tribes, according to the food they eat, viz., the rootridges, alongside of hollows, or depressed channels. On eaters (wombats), the fruit-eaters (phalangers), the grassthe north coast, so much of which is flat, and often swampy eaters (kangaroos), the insect-eaters (bandicoots), and the or sandy, the mangrove flourishes as in other tropical flesh-eaters (native cats and rats). . Of these tribes the regions.

wombats are closely allied to the phalangers, represented From the extreme aridity of the climate in most parts of by the opossums and flying squirrels, with the native bear, northern Australia, there is a singular absence of mosses while fossil remains of twenty extinct species have also been and lichens. North-west Australia possesses, in the Adan- found. Of wombats now existing there are four species, all sonia Gregorii, or gouty-stem tree, a counterpart of the of nearly the same size, seldom exceeding 100 lb in weight. West African baobab, or monkey-bread tree. It is worthy They all burrow in the ground, and their habitat is in of remark that, with a few exceptions, the Australian New South Wales, Tasmania, and South Australia. There trees are evergreens. They also show a peculiar reverted is but one species of the singular animal miscalled the position of their leaves, which hang vertically, turning native bear, which is more like a sloth in its habits. Three their edges instead of their sides towards the sun; and varieties of brush-tailed opossum are found, but one of the eucalypti have the peculiarity of shedding their bark them exists only in Tasmania; and there are three ringannually instead of their leaves. In Australia the native tailed varieties in almost every part of Australia. The species of lily, tulip, and honeysuckle appear as standard great flying phalanger (Petaurista) is nearly allied to the trees of considerable size. The native grasses do not form last-mentioned genus; it exists only in East Australia ; as a continuous and even greensward, as in Europe, but grow does the small flying phalanger (Belideus), which is rein detached clumps or tufts. None of the cereal plants stricted to mountain districts. The interior of Australia are indigenous, and very few of the fruits or roots that and the west coast are wanting in these species, but two supply human food; but many Australian plants are likely or three of them occur on the north coast. The smallest to be valuable for medicinal or chemical manufactures. phalanger (Acrobata pygmæa) is less than a mouse, and

This continent, as might be expected, has some of the has a feathery tail. The little Tarsipes rostratus is almost same botanical families tbat occupy South Africa, Poly- toothless, but has a long hairy tongue, which it thrusts nesia, and South America. Its relations in that respect to into flowers to suck their sweetness. Europe are shown by Alphonse de Candolle's tabular The kangaroo (Macropus) and most of its congenerg statements in the Géographie Botanique Raisonnée. He show an extraordinary disproportion of the hind limbs to gives the exact number of species common to Australia the fore part of the body. The rock wallabies again have and to France in each of the principal families or natural short tarsi of the hind legs, with a long pliable tail for orders. It appears that of 3614 species of phanerogamic climbing, like that of the tree kangaroo of New Guinea, or plants in France, only 45 belong to Australia. But it that of the jerboa. Of the larger kangaroos, which attain will be sufficient, without citing the numerical details, a weight of 200 fb and more, eight species are named, only to quote Baron von Müller's list of the natural orders one of which is found in West Australia. There are somo having the most numerous species of indigenous growth in twenty smaller species in Australia and Tasmania, besides South Australia. They are here arranged in succession, the rock wallabies and the hare kangaroos; these last are according to their comparative amounts of specific diver- wonderfully swift, making clear jumps eight or ten feet high. sity, those which have the greatest number of species being To this agility they owe their preservation from the prairie mentioned first. Of the phanerogamic series, the legumin- fires, which are so destructive in the interior during seasons ous and the composite families united form nearly one of drought. In the rat kangaroo there is not the same fourth. Indeed, the half of the dicotyledonous plants, disproportion of the limbs ; it approaches more nearly or exogens, that exist in the sub-tropical districts belong to the bandicoot, of which seven species exist, from the to these two orders. Next come the myrtaceous plants, size of a rat to that of a rabbit. The carnivorous tribe of the ferns, and the grasses; the Proteaceæ, which form a marsupials, the larger species at any rate, belong more to conspicuous feature of Australian botany; the Orchidaceæ, Tasmania, which has its “tiger” and its “devil.” But the epacrid family, and the parsley family, or Umbelliferæ; the native cat, or dasyurus, is common to every part of the Diosmeæ, a sub-order of the Rutaceæ or rue family; | Australia. Several different species of pouched rats and the Liliaceæ, the Labiatæ or mint family, the Goodeniæ, mice, one or two living in trees, are reckoned among the the Scrophulariaceae or figworts, and the Salsolaceæ. The flesh-eaters. Fossil bones of extinct kangaroo species are Ranunculaceæ, the geranium family, the rosaceous plants, met with, which must have been of enormous size, twice or and the epacrid group, are not found in Australia north of thrice that of any species now living. the tropical line.

We pass on to the other curious order of non-placental Animals.—The zoology of Australia and Tasmania pre-mammals, that of the Monotremata, so called from the sents a very conspicuous point of difference from that of structure of their organs of evacuation with a single orifice, other regions of the globe, in the prevalence of non-placental as in birds. Their abdominal bones are like those of the mammalia. The vast majority of the mammalia are pro- marsupials; and they are furnished with pouches for their vided with an organ in the uterus, by which, before the young, but have no teats, the milk being distilled into birth of their young, a vascular connection is maintained their pouches from the mammary glands. Australia and between the embryo and the parent animal. There are Tasmania possess two animals of this order,—the echidna, two orders, the Marsupialia and the Monotremata, which do or spiny ant-eater (hairy in Tasmania), and the Platypus not possess this organ. Both these are found in Australia, anatinus, the duck-billed water-mole, otherwise named the to which region indeed they are not absolutely confined; Ornithorhynchus paradoxus. This odd animal is provided

« EelmineJätka »