Maps and space photographs of Australia - and photographs and links regarding weather and climate

To my page on estimating elevation, and state government maps in Victoria, especially regarding line-of-sight 802.11 microwave propagation.

This rambling page contains some old and more recent maps, photographs from space of parts of Victoria, links to the Bureau of Meteorology, links to sites with climate information, severe weather information and photos, space photograph sites and other interesting sites regarding the geography of Australia, planets other than Earth, their moons and at least one asteroid and its moon . . .

Click on the images of the maps to see higher resolution versions.
Read below for links to the sources of the maps.

Australia in 1860


South-east Australia in 1860


Melbourne and Geelong in 1860


Melbourne and surrounding area, ca. 1980

A green arrow points to Heidelberg Heights.

Photographs taken from the Space Shuttle

Click on the Space Kombi image to go to the section of the NASA Ames Browser for the NASA JSC's Earth Observation collection from which I got the following images.

Image looking west north-west over central Victoria - April 1993, from the orbiter Endeavor. Strange that there is little visible evidence of 3.2 million people camped around the north of Port Phillip Bay! The Ninety mile beach is to the lower right. Central Highlands - eucalypt forest - is the darker area to the right.  Forest areas to the south of that are pine plantations and the remaining eucalypt and temperate rain-forest of the Strzeleki ranges.  As with a lot of native forest, all is not well.  See a report:  on how the state government seems to be preparing to sell state forest to private owners. Also at that site is a proposal for a 30,000 hectare national park in the Strzeleckis. The proposal is gaining wide support, but the state government's response to concerns about selling off state forest, and to the park proposal, has so far been disappointing.

Between the Central Highlands and the Strzelekis is the LaTrobe Valley.  This is best known for the massive deposits of brown coal, from which Victoria gains almost all of its electricity.  Beyond the right of this picture is the Bass Strait oil and gas fields - off the coast from the central part of the Ninety Mile Beach.  Together these make Victoria self-sufficient for electricity, oil and gas.  The Bass Strait field opened in the mid-sixties.  Before that gas was made by cooking black coal - mainly from New South Wales. The oil and gas is not going to last a great deal longer - but the brown coal will keep going for centuries.  Some natural gas is used for power generation - because such power stations can respond to peak demand better than the huge brown-coal stations.  I think this is a waste of precious gas.  Better to build a cable between Tasmania and Victoria.  Then we can use their hydro stations for peak load, and they won't need to build more dams to cope with drought years.  Tasmania has around 600,000 people, and quite a few of them just love building dams and turning forests into paper.

There is no nuclear power in Australia - but there are several large uranium mines.  There is only one nuclear reactor - a small one in Sydney for research and isotope production.  The Brits conducted some above-ground atomic bomb tests in South Australia in the 1950s.


Looking north west over central Victoria with Port Phillip Bay slightly to the right of centre. Sunshine and clouds over Bass Strait - a very dangerous piece of water.  There is a full-size ship - the Tasmanian Taxi - which runs between Melbourne and Davenport.  It takes cars, busses, trucks etc. - has nightclubs, a swimming pool and so on - its a big ship.  It often gets rough in Bass Strait, and occasionally people wind up in hospital, even on this full-size ocean-going ship. On the day this photo was taken, it looks so calm that you could water-ski to Tasmania.

Only a handful of lighthouses in Australia are still operational - ships are supposed to use satellite navigation systems instead. One of the now defunct light houses is on Cape Otway - slightly left of centre in the picture and covered in cloud.  I have fond memories of spending the night with a friend at Blanket Bay, to the north-east of the forest covered Cape, in my terrestrial Space Shuttle - a 1979 VW Kombi - with no-one else for miles around.  The lighthouse was about five miles away and its beams periodically swept through the night sky above us.  On a previous mission, with an older craft, another friend and I took a short-cut from Apollo Bay to Blanket Bay rather than take the main track to the Cape.  We never got there - the van was bogged to the axles and we walked to the lighthouse to call for a four wheel drive to fish us out.

Port Phillip Bay, with Geelong to the left, Melbourne to the right and the Mornington Peninsular in the foreground.  Port Phillip Heads, AKA "The Rip" is a very dangerous piece of water.  Pilots are taken out by ocean-going launches from Queenscliff at all hours of the day and night - to clamber up a ladder on the side of a ship and guide its captain and crew through the heads.  The big ships generally don't come unstuck - but there are very narrow limits regarding where the water is deep enough, which rocks to avoid and so-on.  Most of the drama comes from the tidal forces pushing water in and out of the bay - forming whirlpools and, I understand, some exotic and sobering boating conditions.  There is a magnificent dive site a few miles inside the heads - "Popes Eye" - an artificial island built last century for a fort to assist the Victorian Navy in keeping Russians from invading.  (Australia's states were separate colonies until Federation in 1901.)  The rock island attracts fish and gets lots of sunshine and fresh water.  I remember being accosted by a squadron of cuttle-fish there and enjoying fighting my way through the thick kelp forests.

These maps are from the extensive Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection at the University of Texas at Austin.  Some of the maps there are courtesy of the CIA(God bless their generous souls!) They have a list of map-related sites which lead me to the NASA site mentioned below.  In particular, the contemporary Australian maps at the University of Texas site are at:
The historical maps of Australia and the Pacific are at:  including a large 1932 map showing the path of early European explorers:  .

The photographs are from Space Shuttle missions - using and extraordinary point-and-click browsing system.  There are 220,973 images from the Shuttle missions 1 to 76 - they take a lot of pictures! These are available at the NASA Ames Browser for the NASA JSC's Earth Observation collection

You may wish to bookmark this page now . . . because, you will be tempted to follow some of the links below:

Latest satellite images and weather maps from the Bureau of Meteorology

Main page for the Bureau of Meteorology - forecasts, observations, climate information etc.
Latest visible light satellite image of Australia:
Latest infra-red satellite image of Australia:
Synoptic chart:
Rainfall map: 1 week, Australia:
Rainfall map: 1 week, south-eastern Australia:
Melbourne forecast: http://www.BoM.GOV.AU/cgi-bin/

Enthusiast sites concerning weather and climate in Australia

Australian Severe Weather

Michael Thompson's Australian Weather Pages

A wonderful map of Australia

Some demographic maps of Melbourne

More maps and synthetic images . . .

Of course, there is .

If you want see some other images, such as one taken of Australia and Antarctica by Gallileo en-route to Jupiter or if you want to beyond the Earth, then check out the vast browsable image libraries of the planets and other solar-system objects such as asteroid Ida and her moon, Dactyl

then point your browser at this fab NASA site:

There is also a relatively low resolution (compared to the above photos) "Earth and Moon" viewer which synthesises images of any area of the Earth - including how that area is lit at the current time.
This site enables you to easily choose which city to look at.
This example, centred on Melbourne, shows seabed relief too.  Tasmania was connected to the mainland around 10,000 years ago when more water was locked up at the poles in the form of ice.

There is a big, synthetic image, "map" of the world from ESA/NASA/NOAA/USGS/CSIRO - like the above, as if it were photographed, but actually made with radar.  I found it at Calvin J. Hamilton's multi-lingual guide to the Solar System (no longer there) 

Here's the Australian section of the big colour topographic map of the Earth, from the US National Geophysical Data Center in Boulder Colarado  (no longer there) : Click on it to see a bigger version.

To see where the Australian continental place is believed to have fitted in with other parts of Pangea, click here to dive into the middle of a tutorial on plate-tectonics from the Hawaii Natural History Association.

In contrast to Indonesia and New Zealand, Australia is geologically a very quiet continent.  There are no active volcanos on the mainland or Tasmania - but there is one on an island nearer the Antarctic: McDonald Island.  I have never seen an active volcano - but I certainly intend to do so.  Check at the Current Volcanic Activity site of Volcano World at the University of North Dakota  to become completely distracted from Australia . . .

Robin Whittle  Page created in April 1998.  Some dead links pruned in January 2007.
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