Australia: Origins and discovery of the fifth continent

Australia's exciting history which begins long before human existence is as fascinating as the continent's spectacular natural beauty. Learn more in the following blog article


How was Australia formed, how was it discovered?

Australia does not only offer unique and beautiful nature but also a diverse and interesting history, which started long before the existence of mankind. Whoever starts learning about the past of this fascinating country will soon realize how complex and eventful Australia’s history is and will gain a deeper understanding of the people and culture of Down Under.

The beginnings of Australia

The landmass of Australia was once part of Gondwana, the super continent, which split up into Africa, Australia, Madagascar, South America and the Indian subcontinent. Later Antarctica separated from Australia. The whole continent has always been exposed to strong weathering impacts. The result can be seen today, especially in the central areas where formations made of red sandstone cover wide areas.

Geomorphology of Australia

Accumulations of rock layers were not affected by the weathering processes and remained as islands in the landscape. One of the most famous islands is Ayers Rock. The high amount of iron in the Australian rock gives the earth its typical, brown-red color which occurs when the iron gets in contact with oxygen and oxidizes.

Australia is situated in the midst of a continental plate and is therefore not affected by volcanic activity or earth quakes. The soil is rich in natural minerals and metals like iron, zinc and gold. This was an important discovery especially for the first European settlers who came to Australia.


Home of the Aborigines

The aborigines have lived in Australia already 50,000 to 60,000 years ago. Until 6,000 years ago there was a frequent cultural exchange between the north of Australia and Papua New Guinea, because both landmasses were connected with each other. The flooding of what today is called the Torres Strait caused the separation of both countries and separated both populations from each other.

Arrival of European explorers in Australia

The sixth largest country on earth was discovered by the Dutch Willem Jansz in the 17th century while he was searching for new trading opportunities during an excursion in the South Seas. When he first explored the land, he later described the tropical part of Australia as very swampy and uninviting.

Still he began to map 300 km of coastline which he mistakenly thought was part of New Guinea. He named the new discovered land “Nieu Zelandt”, which did not establish itself later, but was picked up again after the discovery of New Zealand.


Australia under the British Crown

Only during the second half of the 18th century Australia became important for the Europeans. The British discoverer James Cook arrived on the east coast in 1770 and declared the land to a British colony. This was the time, when the US was on their way to become independent from the British kingdom and the British where looking for a new place for their penal camps. Australia offered ideal conditions for this purpose and was quickly settled by the British.

Furthermore, they founded more colonies and exploited the resources. The aborigines suffered a lot under the European settlers, which displaced big parts of the indigenous populations and killed many of them. The question if a genocide occurred is still discussed today.

Commonwealth of Australia

In the beginning of the 20th century the single colonies united and became the Commonwealth of Australia. This was the start of the Australian nation. Since then Australia has a democratic constitution, which ensures the minority rights for the last aborigines.

If you have planned a trip to Australia and would like to learn more about its history and culture, the National History Museum of Australia in Canberra is the best place for you to visit and learn more about this country. An ideal addition to the countless beautiful nature sights Australia has to offer.

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