Facts About Australia’s Icon: Ayers Rock/Uluru

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Ayers Rock or Uluru, the world’s second largest monolith, is one of Australia’s most famous icons. It is the most sacred site of Aboriginal mythology. According to pseudoscience is located on a major planetary grid point, a source of magnetic energy.

This fascinating landform, steeped in the cultural traditions of the Aboriginal tribes who inhabit the area, attracts tourists from all over the world.

FACT 1: Uluru is the Aboriginal name for Ayers Rock. Archaeological findings indicate that Aboriginal tribes settled in the area about 10,000 years ago. The rock is a sacred point in the Aboriginal creation or dream time beliefs. They believe that below the ground there is a hollow, containing an energy source. This source is called a Tjukurpa.

FACT 2: The Aboriginal creation myth is more a formation myth. They believe that the world existed as a vast expanse of flat plain land. Giant creatures resembling humans, plants and animals slept within the plain. When they awoke they roamed the Earth and all the land forms were created by their activities. Uluru was created by two ancestral creator beings (Tjukuritja). These two Tjukuritja were boys. They played in the mud leaving behind Uluru.

FACT 3: In 1872 the first sighting of the isolated mass of weathered rock (tors) was made by explorer Ernest Giles, who called it Mount Olga. In 1873, William Gosse, a surveyor visited the spot and named it Ayers Rock after the erstwhile premier of South Australia, Sir Henry Ayers.

FACT 4: Ayers Rock is made up of Arkosic sandstone with a high proportion of feldspar. This unique mineral combination creates a spectacle of changing colour in step with the changing position of the sun. The tors towers 348 meters above the surrounding desert and is 863 m above sea level. Its oval shape is 3.6 km long and 2.4 km wide, with a circumference of 9.4km.

FACT 5: At the base of the tors there is a series of shallow caves. The caves are replete with Aboriginal carvings and paintings. They are sacred to the tribes of Uluru and are a very popular tourist destination. The caves are an Aboriginal record of their version of the history of Uluru from the formation period onward.

FACT 6: Though the tribes permit tourists to explore the caves they strongly disapprove of tourists climbing to the top of the rock. Legend has it that anyone who takes away rock from the sacred site will be plagued with misfortune. Many a sceptical tourist has disrespected the Aboriginal theory and gone home with a rock or two. Some of them have thereafter been unable to disassociate the normal downs of life from the forbidden rock and have desperately tried to return the rock by post.

FACT 7: The Australian Government created the Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park at the site of Uluru. In 1985, it handed over ownership to the Aboriginal people who leased it to the government for 99 years. In 1987, UNESCO endorsed the cultural significance of the site and declared the Park a World Heritage Site.

FACT 8: The climate of the region is harsh with precipitation averaging a scanty 300 mm annually. During the winter which lasts from May to July, night time temperatures can drop to below zero. The hottest month is December with day time temperatures soaring upwards of 400 C. The vast diurnal variation in climate has created a distinctive erosional pattern, of gullies and basins in the upper regions of the rock. These transform into giant waterfalls after a rainstorm.

FACT 9: The region hosts a surprisingly large variety of flora and fauna. Mammals, like the red kangaroo, marsupials and rodents, including the rare Rufus wallaby, reptiles and amphibians, including lizards and snakes live here. There are about 175 species of birds including falcons, buzzards, budgerigars and honey eaters. Four hundred species of plants can be found in the park and dozens of types of wildflowers.

FACT 10: Many of the animals are considered by the Anagu tribe, to be Tjukurpa, or energy source beings from the dreamtime. They include the kalaya (emu), liru (a poisonous snake) lungkata (blue tongued lizard) luunpa (kingfisher) and tjintir-tjintirpa (Willie wagtail).

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