One of my new year’s resolutions is to complete writing the text for the third book in my nautical trilogy, In Search of Adventure and Moments of Bliss: The Long Way Back. This sailing/travel odyssey covers the final third of our circumnavigation: Australia, Indonesia, Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Arabian peninsula, the Middle East, and on to Turkey and the other Mediterranean countries we sailed through until we “crossed the line” back in France where it all began.

I spent most of yesterday writing just one of the many sidebars in the book: Did You Know? Australia. And I’m stuck. Australia is awesome! I fell in love with the land and the people. I could write an entire book on the year we spent there. But to give other countries a chance, I must be selective in the stories I tell. As for sidebars, each country in my books gets only one Did You Know of 750 words or so.

HELP! Which part(s) of this list below do you think is either not important or not interesting? I appreciate your comments.

Did You Know?

  1. Australia is about the size of the contiguous United States, but with less than ten percent of the population; it is an elliptically-shaped mass about 2500 miles in length from east to west, and 2000 from north to south.
  2.  “Australia is the world’s sixth largest country and its largest island. It is the only island that is also a continent, and is the only continent that is also a country. It was the first continent conquered from the sea, and the last. It is the only nation that began as a prison,” writes Bill Bryson in Down Under.
  3. The Boomerang Coast, the curved southeastern corner of the country, covers 5% of the land surface but contains 80 % of its population of about 23 million. It contains nearly all of its key cities, including Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Adelaide.
  4. Australia is a land of extremes, from alpine snowfields to searing deserts and lush tropical rainforests. Of the continents, it is the lowest and flattest; it has the oldest soils and fossils. Only Antarctica experiences a lower rainfall.
  5. The largest living thing on earth—the Great Barrier Reef—grows in Australia. This country also contains what I believe to be the most remarkable monolith in the world: Ayers Rock (Uluru).
  6. Australia is quite dangerous to humans, no matter what their station in life. “What other country could just lose a prime minister?” Bryson asks.  He reports that in 1967 the Prime Minister, Harold Holt, was just walking along a Victoria beach when he dashed into the surf and disappeared, never to be seen again.
  7. Australia has been called the home of the deadly.  It hosts five of the world’s ten most poisonous snakes.  The country’s saltwater crocodile has the most powerful bite of any species. The pain of its stinging stonefish alone can be lethal. The bites of the blue-ringed octopus can cause paralysis within minutes and lead to heart failure. The Sydney funnel web is one of the world’s most dangerous spiders. But the box jellyfish is rated the most dangerous threat to visitors, based on the likelihood of encountering one. Be careful! Pick up a cute cone shell on a Queensland beach, and you may be stung by the venomous snail inside. Step into the water and you could be chomped on by a shark. Go to a zoo, and you could get bit by a fierce and aggressive cassowary!
  8. There’s no place like Australia. Eighty per cent of the flora and fauna in Australia exists nowhere else. Its creatures evidently did not read the script. Mammals bounce like basketballs across the vast landscape, fish climb trees, foxes (large bats) fly, and crustaceans, like whales, grow large enough to contain a grown man. Termites ingest houses, fences, and electric poles which they regurgitate to form tall, catacombed structures to house their pampered queens. “Darwin, after his visit to Australia, wondered for a while if the country’s bizarre flora and fauna pointed to the possibility of two parallel creations,” claims Australian-born writer, Peter Conrad. “Had rival gods designed the northern and southern hemispheres? Conrad speculates. “Such creatures must, after all, have a creator, a designer of almost rococo wit and grace.”
  9. The Australian outback is so large and remote that only a few lonely souls in the Great Victoria Desert of Western Australia witnessed  an explosion that set seismograph needles twitching all over the Pacific region.  Yet on May 28, 1993 the seismograph traces did not fit the profile for an earthquake and the blast was 170 times more powerful than any recorded mining explosion. There was no crater showing a meteor strike. The incident remained an unexplained curiosity until in 1995 Aum Shinrikyo gained sudden notoriety when it released huge quantities of the nerve gas sarin into the Tokyo underground, killing 12. Investigators found that Aum owned a 500,000-acre plot in Western Australia near the mystery event. There, they found evidence that the cult members had been mining uranium and had built a sophisticated laboratory staffed with two engineers from the former Soviet Union. The cult’s goal was the destruction of the world.  The event in the desert may have been a dry run for blowing up Tokyo!
  10. Compounding all the mysteries of Australia are the enigmatic aborigines. When Cook arrived in Australia in 1770, he encountered a race that seemed unrelated to any of their neighbors in the region—the Polynesians, Melanesians, and Micronesians. Could they have invented and mastered ocean-going craft 30,000 years before anyone else, then abandoned all they learned to settle the interior and to forget about the sea?

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For more on our Australian adventure, visit the Pacific Bliss website Log & Journal:

http://pacificbliss.com/journal125.html

http://pacificbliss.com/journal121.html

http://pacificbliss.com/journal120.html

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