National Geographic : 1916 Dec
MOUNT FEATHER TOP, VICTORIA, IN EARLY SPRING Snow-capped peaks are rare in Australia, and this view of the high Alps was first seen by the young explorer, Hamilton Hume, who in the early years of the nineteenth century won his way from Sydney across country to Port Philip, where Melbourne now stands. "There was Kosciusko to the southeast, and Bogong, Feather Top, and the Cobbler raising their giant hoary heads in front, and you may be sure the explorers could scarce prepare their breakfast for gazing at the strange scene." the Mississippi. One station reports eight inches in seven years; another six inches in ten years. In the center of the desert the annual precipitation is less than five inches, and over large areas rain may not fall for a period of several years (see map, page 588). Large areas are so flat that no feature in sight rises above the level of the eye except the ghost-like ridges suggested by the ever-present mirage, and the portion known as the Nullarbor plain, having di mensions, roughly, 450 miles by 200 miles, is one of the most even land surfaces in the world. Railroad levels across this plain reveal a gradual slope from 329 feet to 605 feet in a distance of 450 miles an imperceptible rise of about seven inches to a mile and a difference in eleva tion of any two points 20 miles apart of less than 40 feet (see map, pp. 480-481). In constructing the Commonwealth railway (from Perth, Western Australia, to Port Augusta, South Australia) there are no obstructions to avoid, no bridges to build, and practically no grading to be done, and for 430 miles in a single stretch the line will be without curves. A DESOLATE REGION The Australian desert is not a mythical affair like the "Great American Desert," but is a singularly inhospitable waste, which may be entered only in favorable seasons and by special means of trans port. Excluding the miners of the Kal goorlie region, the population on 8oo,ooo square miles of this area, including ranches and villages along the railways, is estimated by the Meteorological Bu reau at "probably not a thousand white folk."