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Australasia

Australasia

Sands of time

Sand

The world’s largest sand island is more than just a giant beach

 

There are no castles on Fraser Island but if there were, they would be built on sand. On the Queensland coast some 184,000 hectares of quartz grains make a platform for lakes, wildlife and a surprisingly flourishing rainforest. Dunes stretch up to 244 metres above sea level on an island that is 122 kilometres (75 miles) long and up to 22 kilometres (13 miles) wide. Some 250 kilometres (155 miles) of beaches surround the inland.

The island has formed over some 700,000 years. Yet sand started to accumulate long before. Some 700 million years ago, when Antarctica was attached to Australia, eroded mountain ranges turned to sand. Along with grains from south-east Australia, it travelled towards the Queensland coast through winds, waves and ocean currents. It settled on the continental shelf before drifting towards the mainland in a zigzag pattern.

The process was helped by changing temperatures regulating ocean levels. During low tide, more sand became visible and started travelling across the surface. The volumes were so large that plants could not stabilise it. Over time, it settled. This created a number of islands, though there is a reason why Fraser became the largest. It used to be a low, hilly terrain formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago, and became an easy catchment area for travelling grains. Continue Reading…

Australasia

The Twelve Apostles

Alberto-Loyo

On Victoria’s southern coast, giant limestone stacks have been sculptured by waves. Nobody knows for how long they will survive.

On 15 January 1990, a young couple strolled onto a famous rock formation on the Australian coast along the Great Ocean Road. The formation was named ‘London Bridge’ because of its two natural arches that branched out from the mainland. Suddenly the inner arch crashed into the sea. The couple were trapped on an islet. They had to be rescued by a helicopter. Continue Reading…

Australasia

Rulers of old

jlarrumbe

In a large shallow embayment on the Australian west coast lies one of the oldest life forms on Earth.

They look unspectacular, but these stone-like objects hold information that reveals how life evolved billions of years ago. The organisms, located in Shark Bay, a vast marine area on the Australian west coast, are colonies of algae that have formed hard, dome-shaped deposits. For three-quarters of the entire history of life, they dominated the Earth’s ecosystem. Quite simply, they ruled the world. Those left today are living samples of how Earth once was. Continue Reading…

Australasia, City guides

Green city guide: Sydney

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It is easy to love Sydney. Like a pick ‘n’ mix sweet bag, the multicultural Australian city contains the best bits of the classic tourism cities; its corporate city skyline supplemented with beautiful harbours, green natural parks, kilometres of beaches and a vibrant cultural scene. The most iconic works are the Sydney Harbour Bridge and a certain opera house. Continue Reading…

Australasia, Destinations, Nature

The slow march

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Each year, millions of red crabs migrate to the shores of Christmas Island to mate, creating one of the world’s natural wonders.

It can almost resemble a moving red carpet, gliding slowly but firmly across rocks, hills and roads. Each ‘wet season’, usually between October and December, a large portion of Christmas Island’s 120 million red crabs – or Gecarcoidea natalis – leaves the forest for the shores, instigating a synchronised five-kilometre pilgrimage that virtually crosses everything in its way. As the island’s 1,500 residents know all too well, the crabs do not like shortcuts. Continue Reading…