Uluru is one of Australia’s most iconic landmarks and one of the country’s major tourist hotspots - and for good reason. The unique natural structure has been formed over millions of years, creating a peaked monolith that juts out of the surrounding desert scenery. As well as an incredible collection of scenery, it boasts a fascinating Indigenous history that imbues the landscape and brings it to life.
The History of Uluru and its Geology
Uluru and the nearby Kata Tjuta are millions of years old. According to geologists and researchers, it is thought the monolith and its surroundings started to form around 550 million years ago when the Peterman Ranges that can be found to the west of Kata Tjuta were much taller than they are now.
Because of their elevated height, excess rainwater began to seep down the mountains, eroding the soft rock and sand that they were made out of as it went. Over time, the water erosion created two big fan shapes that spanned the plains; one that was rocky in formation, and the other made of sand.
Around 500 million years ago, the area was taken over by the sea. The sand and mud that originally characterised it sank to the bottom of the ocean and created a layer on top of the sea bed. The added weight turned the fan shapes into rock, where the sand fan became Uluru and the rocky fan became Kata Tjuta.
100 million years after the sea rose to cover the landscape, it disappeared again. The rocks that had formed tilted in response to the shifting tectonic plates, and Uluru turned 90 degrees.
Take it back 300 million years, and the softer rocks that surrounded the fans eroded away, leaving the pure remnants of Kata Tjuta and Uluru. Today, these great monoliths are simply huge slabs of rock that we can only see a small part of - they continue underground for at least six kilometres.
The Rock Formation of Uluru
Uluru itself is formed of a type of rock known as arkose. You can really get a feel for it when you take the Base Walk around the monolith, where you’ll notice the surface of it is a flaky red colour with intermittent grey patches.
These flakes are actually tiny bits of rock that have been left on the surface after the decaying of the rock minerals, which is usually caused by water and oxygen erosion. The red part is actually rusty iron, a chemical that is naturally found in arkose and is grey in its original colour.
Visiting Uluru is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, not least because there’s so much to discover. As well as seeing the impressive monolith with your own eyes, you’ll get to learn all about the rich history and traditions that imbue the area, as well as find out how the formation came to exist millions and millions of years ago.