Australia is bounded by the Timor Sea, the Arafura Sea and Torres Strait; on the E.
The terrace closest to the land, known as the continental shelf, has an average depth of 600 ft., and connects Australia, New Guinea, and Tasmania in one unbroken sweep. Compared with other continents, the Australian continental shelf is extremely narrow, and there are points on the eastern coast where the land plunges down to oceanic depths with an abruptness rarely paralleled.
From Torres Strait to Dampier Land the shelf spreads out, and connects Australia with New Guinea and the Malay Archipelago.
The land mass of Australia rises to a mean height much less than that of any other continent; and the chief mountain systems are parallel to, and not far from, the coast-line.
With the exception of Tasmania there are no important islands belonging geographically to Australia, for New Guinea, Timor and other islands of the East Indian archipelago, though not removed any great distance from the continent, do not belong to its system.
An eastern system in South Australia touches at a few points a height of 3000 ft.; and the Stirling Range, belonging to the south-western system of South Australia, reaches to 2340 ft.
The coastal belt of Australia is everywhere well watered, with the exception of the country around the Great Australian Bight and Spencer Gulf.
Araucaria Cunninghami, the Moreton Bay pine, is a tall tree abundant on the shores of Moreton Bay, Australia, and found through the littoral region of Queensland to Cape York Peninsula, also in New Guinea.
At Bajo de Velis, in San Luis, the plants belong to the " Glossopteris flora," which is so widely spread in South Africa, India and Australia, and the beds are correlated with the Karharbari series of India (Permian or Permo-Carboniferous).
Taking opossums to have been the ancestors of the group, the author considers that the present writer may be right in his view that marsupials entered Australia from Asia by way of New Guinea.
The single species, which is a native of western and southern Australia, is about the size of an English squirrel, to which its long bushy tail gives it some resemblance; but it lives entirely on the ground, especially in sterile sandy districts, feeding on ants.
The one species, from Western Australia, is the largest member of the family, being about the size of a rabbit, to which it bears sufficient superficial resemblance to have acquired the name of "native rabbit" from the colonists.
A separate family, Notoryctidae, is represented by the marsupial mole (Notoryctes typhlops), of the deserts of south Central Australia, a silky, golden-haired, burrowing creature, with a curious leathery muzzle, and a short, naked stumpy tail.
Here may be noticed three genera of large extinct marsupials from the Pleistocene of Australia whose affinities appear to ally them to the wombat-group on the one hand and to the phalangers on the other.
All are animals of small or moderate size and arboreal habits, feeding on a vegetable or mixed diet, and inhabiting Australia, Papua and the Moluccan Islands.
The outer edge of this ledge is roughly parallel to the coast of Western Australia, and more than 150 m.
Australia presents a contour wonderfully devoid of inlets from the sea except on its northern shores, where the coast-line is largely indented.
Western Australia, again, is not favoured with many inlets, Exmouth Gulf and Shark's Bay being the only bays of any size.
The absence of active volcanoes in Australia is a state of things, in a geological sense, quite new to the continent.
Nor has the continent, as a whole, in recent times been subjected to any violent earth tremors; though in 1873, to the north of Lake Amadeus, in central Australia, Ernest Giles records the occurrence of earthquake shocks violent enough to dislodge considerable rock masses.
The southwest coast is watered by a few streams, but none of any size; amongst these is the Swan, upon which Perth, the capital of Western Australia, is built.
The great rivers of Australia, draining inland, carve out valleys, dissolve limestone, and spread out their deposit over the plains when the waters become too sluggish to bear their burden farther.
- The states of Australia are divided by natural boundaries, which separate geographical areas having different characters, owing, mainly, to their different geological structures.
The Mesozoic begins with a Triassic land period in the mainland of Australia; while the islands of the Australasian festoon contain the Triassic marine limestones, which fringe the whole of the Pacific. The Triassic beds are best known in New South Wales, where round Sydney they include a series of sandstones and shales.
The sea does not appear to have extended completely across Australia, breaking it into halves, for a projection from the Archean plateau of Western Australia extended as far east as the South Australian highlands, and thence probably continued eastward, till it joined the Victorian highlands.
Earth movements are still taking place both along Bass Strait and the Great Valley of South Australia, and apparently along the whole length of tht southern coast of Australia.
The following statistics are interesting: - The enormous development of the wheat-growing industry is These figures do not include the wheat ground into flour and sent by way of British Columbia to Asia and Australia, nor the wheat retained by the farmers for seed.
A governor has been appointed since 1885, some importance being foreseen for the islands in connexion with the cutting of the Panama canal, as the group lies on the route to Australia opened up by that scheme.
A narrow Cambrian sea must have extended across central Australia from the Kimberley Goldfield in the north-west, through Tempe Downs and the Macdonnell chain in central Australia, to the South Australian highlands, central Victoria at Mansfield, and northern Tasmania.
The Silurian system was marked by the retreat of the sea from central Australia; but the sea still covered a band across Victoria, from the coast to the Murray basin, passing to the east of Melbourne.
The second and marine type of the Jurassics occurs in Western Australia, on the coastal plain skirting the western foot of the western plateau.