The Land down Under

  • Added:
    Feb 10, 2013
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Sydney Harbour, Australia
Sydney Harbour, Australia
Photo by kevgibbo

Although other Europeans visited Australia earlier, in 1770 British sea captain James Cook claimed the land for England. The first settlers came in 1787 when a fleet of eleven ships sailed from England. The ships of the First Fleet, as it is known in Australian history, carried convicts, some only 14 or 15 years old.

Those who survived the long voyage were quickly put to work. They built roads and worked on farms. At the end of their sentence they could go back to England or stay in Australia. Many decided to stay. Eventually there were six colonies in Australia, but not many people.

Then in 1851 gold was discovered in the southeastern part of the country; this brought many people, most from Europe. Then gold was found in west. One man took six tons of gold to the bank by wheelbarrow. And so the story goes on. As silver, diamonds, or opals were discovered in the ground, as pearls or oil were found in the sea, different parts of the country developed. And wherever there was enough grass for sheep, big sheep farms were started (there are ten times more sheep than Australians).

Children who live on these farms far from the nearest town have their school lessons by radio. When a doctor is needed, he comes by plane. But most people in the land “down under”, as they say, live in the cities on the coast – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane. People from all over the world come to these fast growing cities to make their homes. In earlier times Australians had to work hard in their new land. Today they have more spare time, which they like to spend outdoors. The splendid beaches are very popular, and so are activities like hiking, camping, fishing, sailing.

For 130 million years the continent of Australia has moved a few inches every year – away from a landmass that once included South America, Africa, Antarctica and Australia. An island for 60 million years, Australia carried away strange animals and plants that are now unique and are not found on other continents. The best known of these strange animals is the kangaroo. As everybody knows, the kangaroo does not walk on all four legs like other animals, but leaps on its strong back legs. Another strange animal is the platypus which has a bill and feet like a duck, and hair like a bear. When people in England saw a stuffed platypus for the first time in 1798, they could not believe that it was a real animal, but parts of different animals.

The first men in this land of strange creatures were the Aborigines, who originally came from southeast Asia but were already living in Australia at least 40, 000 years before the first European came. The Aborigines tell about their beginnings in the stories of the Dreamtime when a spirit came out of the sea and created the land and the people and gave them their language. Other spirits created the plants and animals and then told the people, “Now we have done these things, they must stay like this. You must not change anything.” This is why the Aborigines cannot understand why anyone wants to change or destroy the land. These stories of the Dreamtime are found in ancient rock paintings, many of them in special national parks that people can now visit.      






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