That's because very, very few people live in the middle of Australia. It's a desert. To give you some idea, the entire state of South Australia has 1.7 million people. 1.3 million of those live in the state capital, Adelaide. And most of the others live in the larger towns on the coastal fringe. There is water in the desert, underground. The only reason there are any towns out there at all is the Great Artesian Basin, which send its water to the surface in the form of springs. The only other way to get water out there is to build a pipeline from the coast - which was done in the 1890's for Kalgoorlie, a gold mining town in Western Australia.
What does a desert look like? Well, just recently there has been a lot of rain in North Queensland, where the great inland rivers rise. The Diamantina and Coopers Creek (and their many tributaries) empty into Lake Eyre, which is the remains of what was millions of years ago under the ocean. This year is a once or twice a decade event, when Lake Eyre has water in it. It fills maybe once or twice a century. And when it does, the birds come. No one knows how the pelicans and terns on the coast find out there's water in the lake. But they do and they flock there in their millions to breed along the edges of water brimming with life which has waited patiently in a dormant state for the rains to come.
That's one country. Really, you don't need to find an exoplanet. Got any inspiration yet?
Here are some photos I took as we flew over the desert.
|A salt lake. Those black dots are pelicans|
|That pool of water won't be there for long|
|Salt lakes and desert sand ridges. It's only that green after the rain|
|Weird, tough, low-growing plants|
|Despite the recent rains, it's still a desert. The man-made road is obvious|