Darwin hoteliers don’t come out of it too well but generally Bill Bryson is enamoured with Australia and the writing shows it. There are wonderful stories such as the one about the Desert Rat Kangaroo which outran white people on horses for 12 miles, yes 12 miles non-stop in desert heat. The consensus is that this miniature kangaroo is now extinct. If this book shows you anything, it’s that vast swathes of the country are largely undiscovered and that the creature is probably inhabiting an area the size of Wales where people hardly ever go. The Desert Rat Kangaroo will be found again, though catching a specimen could be tricky as even a cheetah would struggle to keep up with it.
A prospector called Harold Bell Lasseter claimed to have discovered a gold reef 10 miles long in the central deserts but never did rediscover it. It’s possible he was overcome by the heat and imagined it, but again it wouldn’t surprise me if the gold reef is there just waiting to be rediscovered and that it is 20 miles long, not just 10.
Finally, a word about Stromatolites. Stromatolites are special rock-like structures. They usually form in shallow water where cyanobacteria use water, carbon dioxide, and sunlight to create their food, and expel oxygen as a by-product. The real significance of stromatolites is that they are the earliest fossil evidence of life on Earth and almost certainly produced the oxygen that allowed all subsequent life forms to exist on the planet. We are here because of them.
Julian Worker is a writer of travel books, mystery stories, and fictional lists. His work can be seen here.