November 13, 2012

In a Sunburt Country (Down Under) Book Notes

“Almost all Australia highways are still just two lanes wide, and what a difference that makes.  You’re not cut off from the wider world, as you are on a superhighway, but part of it, intimately connected.  All the million details of the landscape are there beside you, up close, not blurred in some distant, tediously epic backdrop.  It changes your whole outlook.”  Bill Bryson, In a Sunburnt Country
This book is a recommended read for anyone interested in Australia.  He dives into the quirkiness of the country which had me agreeing with a lot of the colloquialisms of the people and country.  I must note that the book was written around 2000 so a lot has changed since then particularly the mining boom and the influx of foreigners.  I heard somewhere that over 1/3 of the people living in Australia weren't born here.  That fact must make it one of the most transient countries in the world?  Anyway, I decided start to share my book notes like Derek Sivers does on his website (highly recommend looking at his book notes).  So here are a few things I learned and was fascinated by while reading.

In a Sunburnt Country (Down Under) by Bill Bryson

-Militia that supposedly set off a nuclear bomb in the Outback of western Australia.  They had been mining uranium presumably for making the nuke.  Militia group was called: Aum Shinrikyo
- 11:03 PM on May 28th 1993 the seismograph disturbance near Banjawarn station in great victoria desert 170 times more powerful than the most powerful mining blast
- The seismograph data was recorded and filed away never seriously investigated by the government.  No one really knows what happened. 
-Aboringines came 45000-60000 years ago which means they mastered watercraft some 30000 years before anyone else
-80 percent of all that exists in Australia exists nowhere else on earth
-Nothomyrmecia Macrops-  Crazy story of chance on finding and documenting this species.  See discovery section on Wikipedia.
-Australians are biggest gamblers on the planet- less than 1% of population but 20% of slot machines
-Indian pacific Railway created in 1969
-Underground motel- White cliffs on the side of smith hill within a few hours of Broken Hill
-“That one mine produces more the 7 before.  The difference is that whereas before you had thousands of men crawling about in poky shafts, today a handful of engineers with explosives blow out cathedral sized chambers up to 300 feet high and the size of a football field, and when the dust has settled and everyone’s ears stopped ringing, a team of workers on giant bulldozers come along and scoops up all the ore.”
-Nullabor= a latin term meaning no trees
-Circular Quay in Sydney provides magnificent views (agree)
-Harbour Bridge in Sydney is magnificent as well (agree)
-Taipan- the most poisonous snake on earth- contains venon 50 times more potent than the next deadliest snake, the cobra
-Little desert adder- 8 inches long but lethal
-Point Darwin sea snake- not much larger than an earthworm, with enough venom to kill you
-Cowras Visitors Center- audiovisual theater in the back documents the mass suicidal escape of Japanese prisoners.
-Aussie gold rush- started by Edward hargraves in 1850s + 2 years later
-Lambing flat massacre- white miners killed Chinese miners.  Led to white Australian policy which outlawed non-European immigrants to Australia
-Canberra- awfully boring, but very spacious place.  Like one giant park.
-Description of cricket- Too long to write out but very funny. 
-Australia is a true sporting nation.  In the 1996 Olympics, Australia was the 52nd largest country, yet had the 5th most medals.  3.78 medals per million people, a ratio about 5 times better than the USA
-South Australia was only state that didn’t receive convicts
-Canberra is one big park, whereas other cities have many parks within the city
-Australians lack perspective thinking life is better somewhere else, when really they have the best quality of life on earth
-Saltwater croc is the only thing, despite all the dangers in the land that scares Australians.  It has changed in 20 million years since it was engineered perfectly to kill
-There have been so many feral species introduced to Australia that the once dominant red roo is now only the 13th largest species in Australia
-100,000 camels roam Australia and the only place with 1 humped camels
-Australia is home to 2700 foreign weeds
-Do you have any children?
-Yes.  Two living and one in Melbourne (This was during the era when Sydney was the place to be.  I think Melbourne is great)
-Australians are big gamblers.  The state of Victoria gets 15%, 100 million dollars, from its one casino.
-Ned Kelly, the famous outlaw, coined the phrase “Such is Life”
-Powers lookout- a must see
-See alpine national park in the Australia Alps
-Its amazingly easy in Australia to forget, or at least to reduce to a dim awareness, that there is a world out there
-Aboriginals Occupation of Australia
-Originally thought only 400 years
-1960- 8000 years
-1969- 23000 years
-Current- 45000-60000 years
-Could not have walked here since Australia was never connected to anywhere else. Could not have evolved because Australia doesn’t have an apelike species.  Only had to be by sea.  However, no archaeological evidence suggests anyone mastering sea craft for another 30000 years after the first Aboringal to Australia.  If they did manage to make it by accident in water craft.  There would not enough for breeding stock.  So the lone fisherman had to navigate and back and forth so 60 miles or more to convince others to join.  So they did this tens of thousands of years before anyone else.    
-Bryson calls the Aboriginals to Australia  the “planets invisible people”
-The arrival is only part of the question.  How did they master the continent? 
-As late as 1967, the government did not aboriginals on the census
-Myall Creek case.  White hunter was killed, 17 Aboriginals killed in revenge.  Not even a plaque there
-Three months before Myall creek, 200 were killed at Waterloo creek

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