History

A brief overview of the rich history of the Red Centre.

Archeologists have found that there were human settlements in the area dating back over 20,000 years. There are many examples of these inhabitants still evident today in various sites containing ancient Aboriginal rock art including those at Cleland Hills and MacDonnell Ranges.

Earnest Giles and William Gosse were the first known English explorers to the region in the 1870’s while constructing the all-important link to Europe – the Australian Overland Telegraph line. 1872 saw Giles venture to a formation he named The Olgas (after Queen Olga of Wurttemberg) and sight a distant rock formation in the distance before he was forced to return to Alice Springs as a result of Lake Amadeus’ salty marshes. The following year, William Christie Gosse went on an expedition from Alice Springs with a camel train to climb the rock he named Ayers Rock, making him the first European to do so. Ayers Rock was then named after Gosse’s superior, the Chief Secretary of South Australia, Sir Henry Ayers.

The Australian Government declared ownership of the land in the early 1900s and by the 1930s had opened up the area to visitors. The first tourists visited Uluru in 1936 and by the 1950s the rush to the rock had well and truly flourished with tourists and miners paying regular visits to the region. As the years passed the concerns grew for the effects this influx in tourism would have on the precious land, so as a result the Government agreed to move the newly erected accommodation sites to a new location in Yulara in 1973.

In 1983 after a groundbreaking political agreement, the land was returned back to its traditional owners by Prime Minister Bob Hawke. The agreement however, required the traditional land owners to lease the National Park to the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service for 99 years. Today, the park is jointly managed with Parks Australia and both parties work together to ensure this incredible place is maintained and cared for.

The natural beauty and unique cultural significance of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park has been officially recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Listed Area. This was awarded due to the remarkable and unique natural features formed by ongoing geological processes and for its rich cultural heritage. The listing of Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park ensures the park remains a world-class destination for both its cultural and natural heritage. Today over 400,000 visitors flock to the region each year to experience the natural beauty and its unique Aboriginal culture and leave knowing that the park is managed according to cultural practices that date back tens of thousands of years.

Geography

The indigenous Aborigine people of Central Australia believe that this area was formed by ancient beings of the creation period at the beginning if time – the Dreamtime. Although, not as magical, the scientific version of how this stunning landform came to be is just as fascinating.

Uluru is one of the world’s largest monoliths (a single rock formation) and is Australia’s most recognisable and iconic landforms. Geologists also know it to be an inselberg or island mountain with most of its bulk being underground reaching almost 6km beneath the earth’s surface.

Composed of sandstone, Ayres Rock was formed by massive geological and erosional processes over millions of years. Alluvial fans were created from the erosion of the surrounding mountain ranges, then compacted by rising seawaters over 500 million years ago to form a layer of hard rock. After the sea disappeared approximately 400 million years ago, the land was slowly folded by massive geomorphic forces, tilting the layer of rock on its end exposing the rock to the elements. Uluru, as it is seen today has been continually shaped and eroded by intense weathering, with the oxidisation of surface minerals causing its distinctive red and rusty colour.

The formation of Kata-Tjuta or The Olgas, also an inselberg, is much the same, however this rocky outcrop is made up of a mixture of sedimentary deposits called conglomerate and over time has been broken up into various boulders and domed peaks.

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