The word antipodes comes to us from Greek. It literally means “against the feet” or “with feet opposite our feet.” That is, it was the folks who were on the opposite side of the world from where you were standing.
For the British, that meant Australia and New Zealand, and Australia and New Zealand are still often referred to as the antipodes, even by people whose feet aren’t opposite them.
Australia never fails to present those who visit with delightful “opposites” that make it seem only natural that it would seem “opposite,” or at least startlingly different, from what Europeans knew and expected. Back on October 15, 2008, I showed you the kangaroo paw, a wonderfully “opposite” flower with red stems and green blossoms. In the book, I wrote about Babakin’s famous underground orchid—an orchid that does, in fact, grow underground. There are, of course, the famous monotremes—egg-laying mammals—the platypus and echidna. And to top things off, in Australia, the swans are black.
Perth perches on the banks of the Swan River, a river named for the myriad swans gliding on its waters when the site was first explored and chosen for establishing a settlement. And all those swans were black swans. Just one more reason to love Australia, I reckon.
2 responses to “The Antipodes”
I am a university professor and teach a course called the Geography of Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. I just this semester added your Waltzing Australia to the list of books that students might choose to review. I have recently completed it and found it extremely informative. I had traveled to some of your destinations and relived that through your eyes.
Thanks for such an enjoyable piece.
Plymouth State University
Thanks so much, Bryon. I had hoped the book would give people a real sense of Australia. I’m delighted to hear that you feel it accomplished that task. I hope your students enjoy the book — and get to visit Australia.