National Geographic : 1936 Dec
BEYOND AUSTRALIA'S CITIES for meat to maintain its full freshness and color during the month-and-a-half that it must be on the high seas. Romance is in their refrigerators, which are controlled to fractions of a degree, and their pipettes reflect future profits, because these quiet workers have been remarkably successful in their experiments. Several trial shiploads of meat, sent in 1934, arrived in London without deteriora tion. When I was at the laboratories, the announcement came that another shipment had just reached its destination in perfect condition, even though a soupy London fog had caused an unanticipated five-day de lay in the Thames. To these heartening assurances, the operators of various meatworks have quickly reacted; plants are being altered to meet the new requirements. BUTTER FOR BRITISH TABLES Less spectacular, perhaps, but doubly more profitable than the herds that roam the interior, is the dairy stock pastured in the fertile coastal belt, mainly in New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland. Approximately a sixth of the country's cattle are bred for their milk products. To England, throughout the Far East, and even to Panama is sent the output of the busy churns of the Commonwealth. Years ago, while living in Siam, we used to buy Australian butter. To the tables of the United Kingdom, however, goes the bulk of the 226 million pounds of butter that is shipped abroad each year. And what of Australia's agriculture? In a few decades it has had remarkable growth. Yet the total acreage now under crop is but little more than the area of Maine. Stated thus, it seems unimpressive, but in terms of wheat its importance stands out. Today Australia is one of the three leading countries in the export of this grain. In shape like a gigantic boomerang, vast wheat fields, some 12,000,000 acres in extent, sweep down across the plains from southern Queensland through New South Wales; bending westward in Vic toria, they stretch out into South Austra lia. Another three million acres have re cently been brought under cultivation in Western Australia. Up in the arms of Sydney Harbor grain elevators form Babylonlike towers along the shore. But elevators are rather the ex- ception in Australia; most of the wheat is handled in bags. Along sidings and at lonely tank towns beside the railways and at the South Australian ports sacks of grain are corded up in mountainous piles sometimes 100,000 to 200,000 bags in one stack-awaiting shipment. WINDJAMMERS AND STEAMSHIPS CARRY WHEAT Through the stories of the sailing races written by A. J . Villiers,* GEOGRAPHIC readers are familiar with that portion of the grain shipments which is carried away in the picturesque old windjammers in their dramatic trips around the Horn on their way to England. On these and by prosaic steam transport, more than 150 million bushels of wheat are normally shipped from Australia's shores each year. Back of these shiploads of grain lie indefatigable toil and no small amount of inventive genius, for Australia has pre sented many peculiar problems. A striking example is the Mallee region in South Australia and northwestern Vic toria. This territory gained its name from the mallee, a low eucalyptus scrub, which covered the brown soil in such a tangled mass that men could not clear it with axes. For years these scrublands were looked upon as hopeless wastes. Then someone hitched his oxen to an old boiler filled with rocks and found that he could successfully roll the bush down so that it could be burned. With the aid also of an Aus tralian-invented "stump-jumping" plow, which hopped over many hidden roots and other obstructions left from firing, the land was won to agriculture. Today, mile after mile of waving grain blankets these former scrub wastes, as large areas of the Mallee have been redeemed by the roller method of clearing. Through the belt of comparatively low rainfall, reaching in places to the very edge of the desert, vast districts have also been converted into profitable wheat lands by dry farming. Here, with eight, ten, and twelve-horse teams on plows and harrows and with abun dant energy and hope, the farmers fallow their field for a period of a year, in some places fifteen months, to conserve sufficient * See "Cape Horn Grain-Ship Race," NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, January, 1933, and "Rounding the Horn in a Windjammer," Feb ruary, 1931.