Uluru (Ayers Rock)
The Tip of the Iceberg
Uluru (Ayers Rock) emerges steeply from the desert sand and smoothes off toward the peak in what seems a rather unlikely shape for such a large rock. It is an absolutely breathtaking sight even for the most seasoned of travellers, taking on a stunning array of red and brown shades from dawn to dusk and sun to shade. It even transforms from the more familiar shades of red to grey during infrequent rain, with a myriad of small waterfalls cascading down its banded sides.
Uluru stands an imposing 348 metres above the surrounding desert and has a circumference of 9.4km. It measures 3.6 km long and 2.4 km wide oriented in an east-west direction. Rather like an iceberg, there is more of Uluru under the ground than above it which really brings home the enormity of it. Formed in Cambrian times, it was later tilted through uplift and folding so the horizontal strata now sits at almost 90˚ which gives it the distinct vertical banding.
Uluru is made of feldspar rich sandstone called arkose which is mainly grey and white. The distinctive rust colour is caused by a thin coating of iron oxide on the outer skin. The changing colours of red at sunset are caused by light refraction as the sun sinks in the sky. The lower the sun goes it has to travel through more of the earth’s atmosphere which bends the blue light away leaving the red light to intensify the Rock’s red colour.
Kata Tjuta (the Olgas)
Approximately 30km to the west of Uluru stand the equally stunning 36 domes forming Kata Tjuta. The highest peak, Mount Olga, stands even higher than Uluru at over 500 metres. These two icons of Central Australia and the surrounding desert now form the Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park which encompasses 132,566 hectares and is a World Heritage listed area. It was listed in two stages, originally for its outstanding universal natural values and later, for its outstanding universal cultural values. It puts those cultural values into perspective when you think that the local Aboriginal people have been living in the area for somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 years and are intrinsically linked culturally, spiritually and economically to both Uluru and Kata Tjuta.