I have found myself in several conversations about my home state over the past three weeks, so I thought to summarize what I have told Canadians.
Australia is roughly equal in size and shape and area to the continental U.S.A. Call it Three Million Square Miles and you won’t be far out.
If you shape the forefinger and thumb of both hands to form a rectangular area as best you can, you will have an outline of Australia, and you will have an outline of the continental USA, excluding Alaska.
It should be noted that the old joke still holds true: Two bored Alaskans sitting in a bar. One says to the other “Let’s spilt Alaska into two halves and make Texas the third-biggest state!”
Here is a screen snapshot from recent NASA images titled “Earth By Night”. I have outlined the USA and Australia.
At this scale you can see (from west to east) Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. I can identify Canberra and Wollongong and Newcastle.
Look to the left of the image above. How many cities of the USA do you feel you can identify?
So, I say, people have no real idea of how sparsely settled is Australia. Perth to Adelaide is about 1,700 MILES by road, and there aren’t many bends in that trip!
Here is Australia in a bit more detail. Perth stands out, a city the same size as San Diego – sixty miles north-south and thirty miles east-west. The Darling Scarp trims a near straight line to mark the eastern boundary of Perth.
Bunbury and Bussleton lie south of Perth, and the original settlement of Albany is on the south coast, SSE of Perth.
Three hundred seventy miles east of Perth is Kalgoorlie-Boulder and The Golden Mile, a little south is Kambalda, and on the south coast, Esperance.
The French had a shot at settlements back in the day, hence “Esperance”, “The Recherche Archipelago” and “Point d’Entrecasteux”.
Here is the USA, same scale as the map of Australia. I think you see my point about sparseness in a relative sense.
And here is the south-western part of the country. Perth, Bunbury and Bussleton are evident. Three hundred miles north of Perth is Geraldton where you can’t buy crayfish in the shops, because the catch is pre-sold years in advance to Japan.
Flying from Adelaide to Perth you don’t pass over any lights at all. None at all.
After thirty-five years in Canada I still get a thrill from a window seat at nighttime. There is never a moment when we are out of view of a large town or city. As one slides past us, the next one appears up ahead, the main highways, the shopping malls, the racetracks, the suburban streets.
Here I have expanded the map a little more.
I spent my early years in Southern Cross (circled). The nearest town to the west is Merredin, seventy miles away. Perth is two hundred and thirty miles to the west, on the coast, Kalgoorlie is one hundred and forty miles to the east. Back in those days there was nothing north and south for a thousand miles. Nowadays the iron towns have sprung up.
Perth is still the most isolated capital city in the world.
The flight to Singapore is of shorter duration than the flight to Sydney.