Uluru also known as Ayers Rock and officially gazetted as Uluru / Ayers Rock is a large sandstone rock formation in the southern part of the Northern Territory in central Australia. It lies 335 km (208 mi) south west of the nearest large town, Alice Springs, 450 km (280 mi) by road.
Kata Tjuta and Uluru are the two major features of the Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park. Uluru is sacred to the Anangu, the Aboriginal people of the area. The area around the formation is home to a plethora of springs, waterholes, rock caves, and ancient paintings. Uluru is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Age and Origin
The Mutitjulu Arkose is believed to be of about the same age as the conglomerate at Kata Tjuta, and to have a similar origin despite the rock type being different, but it is younger than the rocks exposed to the east at Mount Conner, and unrelated to them. The strata at Uluru are nearly vertical, dipping to the south west at 85 degrees, 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 Uluru 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 Tjuta.
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 composed 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).
Despite current estimates of the age of the geological formations that comprise Uluru, however, the arkose sandstone which makes up the formation is composed of grains that are many different sizes and are jagged, and the feldspars in the rock are fresh and shiny. Flood geologists argue that this indicates a comparatively fast deposit, on the order of only a few years or less. They state that if the arkose grains had been transported more slowly they would be more rounded and evenly sorted, and the feldspars would have turned to clay in the intervening years.
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. Uluru and Kata Tjuta 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 Tjuta from a location near Kings Canyon and called it Mount Olga, while the following year Gosse observed Uluru and named it Ayers Rock, in honour of the Chief Secretary of South Australia, Sir Henry Ayers. Further explorations followed with the aim of establishing the possibilities of the area for pastoralism. In the late 19th century, pastoralists attempted to establish themselves in areas adjoining the Southwestern/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 the Northern Territory were declared as Aboriginal reserves, sanctuaries for nomadic people who had virtually no contact with European settlers. In 1920, part of Uluru – Kata Tjuta 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 arrived in the Uluru area in 1936. Beginning in the 1940s, permanent European settlement of the area for reasons of the Aboriginal welfare policy and to help promote tourism of Uluru. This increased tourism prompted the formation of the first vehicular tracks in 1948 and tour bus services began early in the 1950s. In 1958, the area that would become the Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park was excised from the Petermann Reserve; it was placed under the management of the Northern Territory Reserves Board and named the Ayers Rock – Mount Olga National Park. The first ranger was Bill Harney, a well-recognised central Australian figure. By 1959, the first motel leases had been granted and Eddie Connellan had constructed an airstrip close to the northern side of Uluru.
On 26 October 1985, the Australian government returned ownership of Uluru 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. An agreement originally made between the community and Prime Minister Bob Hawke that the climb to the top by tourists would be stopped was later broken. The Aboriginal community of Mutitjulu, with a population of approximately 300, is located near the eastern end of Uluru. From Uluru 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.On 8 October 2009, the Talinguru Nyakuntjaku viewing area opened to public visitation. The A$21 million project about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) on the east side of Uluru involved design and construction supervision by the Aṉangu traditional owners, with 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) of roads and 1.6 kilometres (1 mi) of walking trails being built for the area.