How Big Is Australia?

It didn’t take me long to appreciate the size of the USA and all it has to offer. The contiguous US (the 48 adjoining states) is vast, covering an area that is a bit smaller than the size of Australia. Although I am now more familiar with the geography, history and culture of the US, I realise that many Americans know very little about Australia (most Americans don’t get to travel too much and seem to be indoctrinated from an early age that America is the greatest and best nation on Earth; they forget there is a whole other world out there and that the USA is just one part of it, not the centre of it). We have been asked many questions about our homeland, which we are happy to answer; on one occasion we were asked what language we spoke in Australia!  (Yes, it is English). So, I thought I would share a few facts.

Map of Australia

Map of Australia

Some in the USA do not realise just how big it really is, or the diversity we have. Australia is the smallest continent, yet the 6th largest country in the world. We have temperate and tropical rain forests, snow-capped mountains, and quite a bit of desert (~ 70% of the country). In fact, only 10% of the continent is inhabited and 85% of the population lives within 50km (31mi) of the coast.

For those who like a visual feast – check this link, which illustrates just how big Australia is. 17 Maps of Australia

How does Australia compare to the USA? Some facts and figures:

  Australia USA
Total land area 7.68M km2 (2.9M mi2) 9.16M km2 (3.8M mi2)
Ranking in world by area 6/194 3/194
Population 23.6M ~319M
Population density 2 per km2 (0.8/mi2) 34 per km2 (13.1/mi2)
Coastline length 25,765km 19,924km
Capital Canberra Washington
Number of states 6 (+ 2 territories) 50
Largest City (population) Sydney (4.5M) New York (8.4M)
Highest mountain Kosciuszko (2,228m) McKinley (6,168m)
Lowest point Lake Eyre (-15m) Badwater Basin (-86m)
Longest River Murray (2,375km) Missouri (3,767km)

Some more interesting facts about Australia:

Australia:

  • Is the driest inhabited continent on Earth
  • Is the only continent without an active volcano
  • Has the worlds largest coral reef complex – The Great Barrier Reef (off the coast of the state of Queensland)
  • Has the longest fence in the world – ‘The Dingo Fence’ stretches 5,400km from Queensland to South Australia
  • Has the largest cattle station in the world – Anna Creek Station in South Australia is 8 times bigger than the largest ranch in Texas, USA
  • Chose the Emu and Kangaroo for its coat of arms as these animals are incapable of walking backwards, so represented a nation moving forward!
  • Was claimed for Great Britain in 1770 by Captain James Cook
  • Was settled in 1788 (when the First Fleet arrived in Botany Bay) as a penal colony. (Botany Bay proved unsuitable, so the colonists relocated to Port Jackson – now Sydney Cove)
  • Became an independent nation January 1, 1901. The Commonwealth of Australia was established as a constitutional monarchy. (Australia did not gain true independence until 1986 when the Australia Acts came into force, where the British government would no longer be responsible for the government of any state and the Westminster parliament could no longer legislate for Australia. Additionally, Australia took full control of all Australia’s constitutional documents). Ref.

I know Americans fear Australia because of our reputation as having some of the deadliest creatures on the planet. So, here are some facts about our ”deadliest creatures”.

Australia:

  • Has 4 of the 5 most deadly snakes in the world
  • Has the most poisonous spider in the world: the Sydney Funnel-web
  • Has the most poisonous fish in the world – the stonefish (in Australia, this is only found north of the Tropic of Capricorn, on the Queensland north coast).
  • Has the largest species of the Box Jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri)– the “most venomous marine creature” in the world, responsible for at least 64 human deaths since 1883
Sydeny Funnel-web spider

Sydney Funnel-web spider – image courtesy of Daily Telegraph

I came across culture guide to Australia web page that you might find interesting. http://www.australian-information-stories.com/

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Imperial vs Metric!

Why does the US persist with the Imperial system of measurement? It is archaic and extremely frustrating. The USA is one of only 3 countries left in the world where the Metric system has not officially been adopted; the other two are Myanmar (Burma) and Liberia!

I am constantly frustrated by the continued use of Imperial measurements in the USA. Whilst cooking the other day, a recipe called for a quart of water – I had to go and look it up – I had no idea (it’s just short of a litre, or almost 4 cups, by the way)! Using miles instead of kilometres is bad enough, but having to convert pounds and ounces, inches, feet, yards and miles and fluid ounces, quarts and gallons does my head in! Not to mention the use of Fahrenheit instead of degrees celsius – that is just annoying. Celsius is so much easier – water freezes at 0°C and boils at 100°C – simple! (For those curious, the respective values in Fahrenheit are 32°F & 212°F). But Americans are afraid of change (I’m hoping it’s not arrogance). So, let me reassure my Americans friends, there is nothing to fear – it’s easy – the Metric measurement system is all based on a factor of 10 – simple really!

The below image showed up on Facebook, so I’ve borrowed it from there to illustrate:

Imperial vs Metric

Imperial vs Metric

The metric system is used in the fields of medicine, science and technology and even in international sporting events like the Olympics (e.g. the running track is 400m). It is after-all, the International standard for measurement. So, when will the USA catch up to the rest of the world and switch to the International System of Units and embrace the metric system?

For those Americans who would like to know more I have added  simplified (I, hope) table to explain, otherwise –  here might be a good place to start.

Base units for each measurement type:
Length Metre (m)
Weight Gram (g)
Volume Litre (L)

What the prefixes mean:

Milli (m) 1/1000
Centi (c) 1/100
Deci (d) 1/10
Deca (da) x10
Hecto (h) x100
Kilo (k) x1000
* Deci, Deca & Hecto are not routinely used in everyday measurements

For weights and volumes generally only the base unit and the milli and kilo prefixes are routinely used in everyday measurements. For lengths – the additional use of centimetre (cm) is common. So, the most common examples would be:

Lengths: 1km = 1000m and 1m = 100cm = 1000mm

Weight: 1 kg = 1000g and 1g = 1000mg

Volume: 1L = 1000mL

🙂