Uluṟu at sunset
|Elevation||863 m (2,831 ft)|
|UNESCO World Heritage Site|
|Name||Uluṟu - Kata Tjuṯa National Park|
|Wikimedia Commons: Uluru|
Uluṟu, also known as Ayers Rock, is a large sandstone rock formation in the southern part of the Northern Territory, central Australia. It lies 335 km (208 mi) south west of the nearest large town, Alice Springs; 450 km (280 mi) by road. Kata Tjuṯa and Uluṟu are the two major features of the Uluṟu - Kata Tjuṯa National Park. Uluṟu is sacred to the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara, the Aboriginal people of the area. It has many springs, waterholes, rock caves and ancient paintings. Uluṟu is listed as a World Heritage Site.
In October 1872 the explorer Ernest Giles was the first non-indigenous person to sight the rock formation. He saw it from a considerable distance, and was prevented by Lake Amadeus from approaching closer. On 19 July 1873, the surveyor William Gosse visited the rock and named it Ayers Rock in honour of the then-Chief Secretary of South Australia, Sir Henry Ayers. The Aboriginal name was first recorded by the Wills expedition in 1903. Since then, both names have been used, although Ayers Rock was the most common name used by outsiders until recently.
In 1993, a dual naming policy was adopted that allowed official names that consist of both the traditional Aboriginal name and the English name. On 15 December 1993, it was renamed "Ayers Rock/Uluṟu" and became the first officially dual-named feature in the Northern Territory. The order of the dual names was officially reversed to "Uluṟu/Ayers Rock" on 6 November 2002 following a request from the Regional Tourism Association in Alice Springs.
Uluṟu is one of Australia's most recognisable natural icons. The world-renowned sandstone formation stands 348 m (1,142 ft) high [863 m (2,831 ft) above sea level] with most of its bulk below the ground, and measures 9.4 km (5.8 mi) in circumference. Both Uluṟu and Kata Tjuṯa have great cultural significance for the Aṉangu Traditional landowners, who lead walking tours to inform visitors about the local flora and fauna, bush foods and the Aboriginal dreamtime stories of the area.
Uluṟu is notable for appearing to change colour as the different light strikes it at different times of the day and year, with sunset a particularly remarkable sight when it briefly glows red. Although rainfall is uncommon in this semiarid area, during wet periods the rock acquires a silvery-grey colour, with streaks of black algae forming on the areas that serve as channels for water flow.
Kata Tjuṯa, also called Mount Olga or The Olgas owing to its peculiar formation, is another rock formation about 25 km (16 mi) from Uluṟu. Special viewing areas with road access and parking have been constructed to give tourists the best views of both sites at dawn and dusk.
Uluṟu is an inselberg, literally "island mountain", an isolated remnant left after the slow erosion of an original mountain range. Uluṟu is also often referred to as a monolith, although this is a somewhat ambiguous term because of its multiple meanings, and thus a word generally avoided by geologists. The remarkable feature of Uluṟu is its homogeneity and lack of jointing and parting at bedding surfaces, leading to the lack of development of scree slopes and soil. These characteristics led to its survival, while the surrounding rocks were eroded. For the purpose of mapping and describing the geological history of the area, geologists refer to the rock strata making up Uluṟu as the Mutitjulu Arkose, and it is one of many sedimentary formations filling the Amadeus Basin.
Uluṟu is dominantly composed of coarse grained arkose, a type of sandstone characterized by an abundance of feldspar, and some conglomerate. Average composition is 50% feldspar, 25–35% quartz and up to 25% rock fragments; most feldspar is K-feldspar with only minor plagioclase as subrounded grains and highly altered inclusions within K-feldspar. The grains are typically 2–4 mm in diameter, and are angular to subangular; the finer sandstone is well sorted, with sorting decreasing with increasing grain size. The rock fragments include subrounded basalt, invariably replaced to various degrees by chlorite and epidote. The minerals present suggest derivation from a predominantly granite source, similar to the Musgrave Block exposed to the south. When relatively fresh, the rock has a grey colour, but weathering of iron-bearing minerals by the process of oxidation gives the outer surface layer of rock a red-brown rusty colour. Features related to deposition of the sediment include cross-bedding and ripples, analysis of which indicated deposition from broad shallow high energy fluvial channels and sheet flooding, typical of alluvial fans.
The Mutitjulu Arkose is believed to be of about the same age as the conglomerate at Kata Tjuṯa, and to have a similar origin despite the rock type being different, but it is younger and unrelated to the rocks exposed to the east at Mount Connor. The strata at Uluṟu are nearly vertical, dipping to the south west at 85°, and have an exposed thickness of at least 2,400 m (7,900 ft). The strata dip below the surrounding plain and no doubt extend well beyond Uluṟu in the subsurface, but the extent is not known. The rock was originally sand, deposited as part of an extensive alluvial fan that extended out from the ancestors of the Musgrave, Mann and Petermann Ranges to the south and west, but separate from a nearby fan that deposited the sand, pebbles and cobbles that now make up Kata Tjuṯa. The similar mineral composition of the Mutitjulu Arkose and the granite ranges to the south is now explained. The ancestors of the ranges to the south were once much larger than the eroded remnants we see today. They were thrust up during a mountain building episode referred to as the Petermann Orogeny that took place in late Neoproterozoic to early Cambrian times (550-530 Ma), and thus the Mutitjulu Arkose is believed to have been deposited at about the same time. The arkose sandstone which makes up the formation is comprised of grains that show little sorting based on grain size, exhibit very little rounding and the feldspars in the rock are relatively fresh in appearance. This lack of sorting and grain rounding is typical of arkosic sandstones and is indicative of relatively rapid erosion from the granites of the growing mountains to the south. The layers of sand were nearly horizontal when deposited, but were later tilted to their near vertical position during a later episode of mountain building, possibly the Alice Springs Orogeny of Palaeozoic age (400-300 Ma).
Historically, 46 species of native mammals are known to have been living in the Uluṟu region; according to recent surveys there are currently 21. Aṉangu acknowledge that a decrease in the number has implications for the condition and health of the landscape. Moves are supported for the reintroduction of locally extinct animals such as Malleefowl, Common Brushtail Possum, Rufous Hare-wallaby or Mala, Bilby, Burrowing Bettong and the Black-flanked Rock-wallaby.
The Mulgara, the only mammal listed as vulnerable, is mostly restricted to the transitional sand plain area, a narrow band of country that stretches from the vicinity of Uluṟu to the Northern boundary of the park and into Ayers Rock Resort. This area also contains the marsupial mole, Woma Python or kuniya, and Great Desert Skink.
The bat population of the park comprises at least seven species that depend on day roosting sites within caves and crevices of Uluṟu and Kata Tjuṯa. Most of the bats forage for aerial prey within 100 m (330 ft) or so from the rock face. The park has a very rich reptile fauna of high conservation significance with 73 species having been reliably recorded. Four species of frog are abundant at the base of Uluṟu and Kata Tjuṯa following summer rains. The Great Desert Skink is listed as vulnerable.
Aṉangu continue to hunt and gather animal species in remote areas of the park and on angu land elsewhere. Hunting is largely confined to the Red Kangaroo, Australian Bustard, Emu and lizards such as the Sand Goanna and Perentie.
Of the 27 mammal species found in the park, six are introduced: the house mouse, camel, fox, cat, dog and rabbit. These species are distributed throughout the park but their densities are greatest in the rich water run-off areas of Uluṟu and Kata Tjuṯa.
Uluṟu - Kata Tjuṯa National Park flora represents a large portion of plants found in Central Australia. A number of these species are considered rare and restricted in the park or the immediate region. There are many rare and endemic plants at Uluṟu and Kata Tjuṯa.
The growth and reproduction of plant communities rely on irregular rainfall. Some plants are able to survive fire and some are dependent on it to reproduce. Plants are an important part of Tjukurpa, and there are ceremonies for each of the major plant foods. Many plants are associated with ancestral beings.
Flora in Uluṟu - Kata Tjuṯa National Park can be broken into the following categories:
Trees such as the Mulga and Centralian Bloodwood are used to make tools such as spearheads, boomerangs and bowls. The red sap of the bloodwood is used as a disinfectant and an inhalant for coughs and colds.
There are several rare and endangered species in the park. Most of them, like Adder's Tongue ferns, are restricted to the moist areas at the base of the formation, which are areas of high visitor use and subject to erosion.
Since the first Europeans arrived, 34 exotic plant species have been recorded in the park, representing about 6.4% of the total park flora. Some, such as perennial buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris), were introduced to rehabilitate areas damaged by erosion. It is the most threatening weed in the park and has spread to invade water- and nutrient-rich drainage lines. A few others, such as burrgrass, were brought in accidentally, carried on cars and people.
The park receives an average rainfall of 307.7 mm (12.1 in) per year, and average temperatures are 37.8 °C (100.0 °F) in the summer and 4.7 °C (40.5 °F) in the winter. Temperature extremes in the park have been recorded at 45 °C (113 °F) during the summer and −5 °C (23 °F) during winter nights. UV levels are extreme most days, averaging between 11 and 15.
Local Aboriginal people recognise five seasons:
Archaeological findings to the east and west indicate that humans settled in the area more than 10,000 years ago. Europeans arrived in the Australian Western Desert in the 1870s. Uluṟu and Kata Tjuṯa were first mapped by Europeans in 1872 during the expeditionary period made possible by the construction of the Australian Overland Telegraph Line. In separate expeditions, Ernest Giles and William Gosse were the first European explorers to this area.
While exploring the area in 1872, Giles sighted Kata Tjuṯa from a location near Kings Canyon and called it Mount Olga, while the following year Gosse observed Uluṟu and named it Ayers Rock. Further explorations followed with the aim of establishing the possibilities of the area for pastoralism. In the late 1800s, pastoralists attempted to establish themselves in areas adjoining the South western/Petermann Reserve and interaction between Aṉangu and white people became more frequent and more violent. Due to the effects of grazing and drought, bush food stores became depleted. Competition for these resources created conflict between the two groups, resulting in more frequent police patrols. Later, during the depression in the 1930s, Aṉangu became involved in dingo scalping with 'doggers' who introduced Aṉangu to European foods and ways.
Between 1918 and 1921, large adjoining areas of South Australia, Western Australia and Northern Territory were declared as Aboriginal reserves, sanctuaries for nomadic people who had virtually no contact with European settlers. In 1920, part of Uluṟu - Kata Tjuṯa National Park was declared an Aboriginal Reserve (commonly known as the South-Western or Petermann Reserve) by the Australian government under the Aboriginals Ordinance.
The first tourists visited the Uluṟu area in 1936. From the 1940s, the two main reasons for permanent and substantial European settlement in the area were Aboriginal welfare policy and the promotion of tourism at Uluṟu. In 1948, the first vehicular track to Uluṟu was constructed, responding to increased tourism interest in the region. Tour bus services began in the early 1950s, and in 1958, the area that is now the Uluṟu - Kata Tjuṯa National Park was excised from the Petermann Reserve to be managed by the Northern Territory Reserves Board as the Ayers Rock - Mt Olga National Park, thus more fully opening the region to tourism.
The first ranger was the legendary central Australian figure Bill Harney. By 1959, the first motel leases had been granted and Eddie Connellan had constructed an airstrip close to the northern side of Uluṟu.
On 26 October 1985, the Australian government returned ownership of Uluṟu to the local Pitjantjatjara Aborigines, with one of the conditions being that the Aṉangu would lease it back to the National Parks and Wildlife agency for 99 years and that it would be jointly managed. The Aboriginal community of Mutitjulu, population of approximately 300, is located near the western end of Uluṟu. From Uluṟu it is 17 km (11 mi) by road to the tourist town of Yulara, population 3,000, which is situated just outside of the national park.
A variety of Aboriginal legends account for the existence of Uluṟu and its many cracks and fissures. One tells of serpent beings who waged many wars around Uluṟu, scarring the rock. Another myth recounts that two tribes of ancestral spirits were invited to a feast, but were distracted by the beautiful Sleepy Lizard Women and did not show up. In response, the angry hosts sang evil into a mud sculpture that came to life as the dingo. There followed a great battle, which ended in the deaths of the leaders of both tribes. The earth itself rose up in grief at the bloodshed, becoming Uluṟu.
It is often reported that those who take rocks from the formation will be cursed and suffer misfortune. There have been many instances where people who removed such rocks attempted to mail them back to various agencies in an attempt to remove the perceived curse.
A monolith is a geological feature such as a mountain, consisting of a single massive stone or rock, or a single piece of rock placed as, or within, a monument. Erosion usually exposes the geological formations, which are most often made of very hard and solid metamorphic or sedimentary rock.
The three largest on Earth are:
Many of these have legends attached.
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