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An eyeful of Oz

If Australia didn't exist, some photographer would have had to invent it.

Lucky for Sam Abell that wasn't necessary. In Australia: Journey Through a Timeless Land, the National Geographic photographer offers a stock of eye-popping images that demonstrate just why the natives call the place Oz.

Where else can you find a fence that stretches across grazing land for a whopping 3,307 miles? (The "Dog Fence" was put up in 1880 to protect sheep from wild dingoes.) Where else can you photograph an 80-year-old prospector and artist, living underground to protect herself from the 115-degree heat on the surface? (An illuminated aquarium in Ivy Kennedy's living room "'takes the place of a wished-for skylight.") And where else can you come up with images of 2,000-year-old coral reefs, skinks, saltwater crocodiles, dingoes, multicolored bommies and a mammoth 600-million-year-old red sandstone rock rising eerily from a flat plain?

Even sports in Australia are over the top. One of Abell's photographs shows a lone surfer riding a wave off the coast of Margaret River, where the beaches have nicknames such as "Suicides," "Boneyards" and "Guillotine."