AUSTRALIA AND THE PACIFIC ISLANDS 504. Size, climate and seasons of Aus tralia.—Australia is the smallest of the six continents. Sometimes it is called an island. It is almost exactly the same size as the United States. It is a strange con tinent. The climate in the northern part is hot and wet like that of parts of northern. South America. The cli mate of the central and western parts is very dry, so dry that it is a desert. Some parts of it have not yet been explored, although brave men have lost their Eves trying to cross it. To aid them in desert travel the white men have recently brought camels from Africa.
The southwestern corner and the part near Adelaide have a climate much like that of California and Arizona, and a part of the east coast, between the mountains and the sea, is a well-watered region like the coast of North and South Carolina.
Most of the people of Australia live in the good southeastern part where there is rain.
The seasons in Australia and New Zealand, like those in other parts of the southern hemisphere, are opposite ours. They have winter when we have sum mer. When frost is killing our green things, their trees and flowers are just aom ing into bloom, and Christmas there comes in the middle of the hot weather, as our Fourth of July does.
505. Native black white men went from England to Australia about a hundred and fifty years ago, they found a few very queer black people living there. They had no domestic animals, no farms, no roads, no towns. Some of them are still to be seen, and they are the most stupid people in the world. Many cannot learn to count above eight, and for any higher number they just say " eighty eight ". But although these men are not very smart with their brains, they have much sharper eyes than white men. One of their games is that of following each other's tracks across sand, earth, and grass, or through forests. They get so skilful in watching for tracks that they can track wild animals across bare rock. They are employed by the Australian police department as trackers. They are also powerful throwers, and can kill a man or an animal with a club at a distance of four hundred feet. A favorite sport is throwing the boomerang, something no other people in all the world know how to do. The boomerang is a curved stick,
which, after it has been thrown, will come back and fall near the man who threw it.
506. Wild animals and wild animals of Australia and New Zealand are not like those of any other continent. There are no big animals, such as the deer, buffaloes, elephants, lions, or tigers of other continents. The largest animal is the kangaroo. It hops around on two legs, and the mother kangaroo carries her little ones in a pocket made in her own skin. The kangaroo's tail is very long and thick and strong, and it is used as a kind of third hind leg, so that they make very long jumps and travel rapidly.
Australian trees are as queer as are the animals. Some of the forests have trees that are as tall as the big trees of California.
Some trees shed their bark as others shed their leaves, and some have leaves that make no shade because they are set edgewise toward the sun. When leaves are set this way, the sun takes less water from them, so that a tree with such leaves can thrive better in a place where there is little rain. In some places, the ground is covered with thicket's of bushes hav ing curved thorns that catch and hold you. For this reason they are called " Wait a-bit " bushes.
507. People and govern ment.—By looking at a globe (Fig. 37) you can see that Australia is very far away from England and from the other countries of Europe.
No one went to Australia for two hundred years after European people had made their hOmes in North America. The first settle ment was made at Sydney in 1788. It took from four to six months to sail to Australia from Europe. This was too long and tiresome a voyage, so no one cared much about going there to live. Steam ships have made the journey possible in thirty or forty days, and in the last half century Australia and New Zealand have been settled rapidly by people from Eng land, Scotland, and Ireland. However, no black people, brown people, or yellow people have gone there; the native blacks are only a few thousand in number, and thus Australia is as much of a white man's continent as is Europe itself, and more so than any continent but Europe. As the people of Australia have nearly all come from the British Isles, they spdak English and have English customs.