Uluru is a place that has long fascinated, not just due to my minor UNESCO Heritage Site obsession, but also, despite all the photos and YouTube videos, I couldn’t quite get my head around this big rock rising out of the desert, I needed to see it with my own eyes.
Whilst we were there I learned a lot about Uluru, and combined with the research I did beforehand, here I share the most interesting and unusual facts about this sacred rock.
I do not claim to be an expert on Uluru, just an interested traveller who loves doing my research before a holiday, so I can bore my family in the traditional style of dads through the ages!
Physical Facts About Uluru
The World’s Largest Single Rock Monolith
There is some contention whether Uluru or Mount Augustus in Western Australia is the biggest rock in the world.
Well, the truth is that Mount Augustus pips Uluru in size, as it’s around 1.5 times bigger, however Uluru still has a trick up its sleeve.
Uluru is the world’s largest single rock monolith. Mount Augustus is made up of multiple rocks, whereas Uluru is made up of just one. So there we go, it wins, on a technicality!
A Tall Rock
Uluru is reaches 863m metres above sea level, and is 348 metres above the surrounding desert.
A Long Rock
Uluru is 3.6km long (it’s also 1.9km wide) and has a circumference of 9.4km – bear that in mind when you set out to do the base walk on a blazing hot outback day!
One of the most unusual facts I found about Uluru, was that there’s significantly more of it underground than above it.
Uluru is thought to go around 2,500m underground, so there’s about seven times more rock below the surface than above it.
A Heavy Rock
Uluru is estimated to weight just over 1.4 billion tonnes.
In 2018, a survey was undertaken as part of the Catalyst TV program by the Northern Territory Geological Survey using satellite images, rock density and size, which put the mass of the above ground portion of Uluru at 1,425,000,000 tonnes!
Vs Other Iconic Landmarks
I was also interested in how big Uluru is vs other natural landmarks around the world.
Below might seem like a random selection, but these are all things that I guessed might be a similar height to Uluru. I was very wrong on most of them!
|Landmark||Height or Depth (vs surrounding landscape)||vs Uluru|
|Angel Falls (Venezuela)||979m||+631m|
|Eiffel Tower (France)||330m||-12m|
|Grand Canyon (USA)||1,829m||+1,481m|
|Empire State Building (USA)||380m||+32m|
|Ha Long Bay Stacks (Vietnam)||98m||-250m|
|Ngorongoro Crater (Tanzania)||610m||+262|
|Statue of Liberty (USA)||93m||-255m|
|Great Pyramids (Egypt)||139m||-209m|
It’s Not Actually Red
This may be hard to believe, but Uluru isn’t actually red.
No, your eyes don’t deceive you, what you’re actually seeing is rust.
Uluru is made of a rock called arkose, which is actually grey in colour. Arkose contains iron, which when mixed with rain causes the red colour of Uluru.
When you get up close to the rock, you can see parts that have recently worn away where the grey shows through.
Uluru is an inselberg.
Whilst is sounds like a small town in Australia, an Inselberg is actually an isolated hill that sticks out from the surrounding planes.
It is a combination of the German words insel (island) and berg (mountain).
A Long Way From Anywhere
Despite being in the Northern Territory, the closest state capital to Uluru is actually Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia at 1,544km away (Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory is 1,963km north!).
The closest major town is Alice Springs, and that is 465 kms away (for European readers, that’s the same distance as driving London to Paris!).
(P.S. I realise the Northern Territory isn’t a state, but don’t hate me too much).
Facts About Uluru’s History
A Sacred Site
Uluru is a sacred site to the local Anangu people who own the land.
According to Uluru dreamtime, the world was a featureless place until the ancestors of the Anangu emerged and travelled across the land, creating the mountains. Uluru represents the physical evidence of their ancestor’s time on the earth and is seen as one of their most dramatic and inspiring creations.
30,000 Years of Human History
Aboriginal people have lived around Uluru for over 30,000 years,
If you complete the base walk, you’ll see lots of sites sacred to the Anangu people, including a school site and rock paintings.
The first non-Aboroginal person to see Uluru was William Gosse, in 1873.
A year before, Ernest Giles was the first explorer to see Kata-Tjuta, naming it Mount Olga after Queen Olga of Württemberg. He was at Kings Canyon at the time, so was too far away to see Uluru.
As Big as the Himalayas
Uluru and Kata Tjuta were once part of the Petermann Mountain range, which was formed 550 million years ago after the Indian techtonic plate smashed into the Australian one.
This formed a mountain range which would have been as big as the Himalayas, which has been word away over millions of years, with only the harder rock outcrops remaining.
Facts About Tourism at Uluru
Protected for the Future of Humankind
Uluru is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which means it is ‘of outstanding universal value to humanity’.
It was added to the list in 1987 for its natural attributes, and then updated again in 1994 where it was recognised also for its outstanding cultural importance.
- (v) An outstanding example of traditional human settlement which is representative of a culture
- (vi) It is directly associated with events of living traditions
- (vii) It contains superlative natural phenomena and areas of exception natural beauty and aesthetic important
- (viii) An outstanding example representing major stages of earth’s history, including record of life and ongoing geological processes
National Park Status
Uluru was first given national park status in 1950, under the name Ayers Rock.
In 1958, the area was taken from its Aboriginal owners, to for the Ayers Rock-Mount Olga National Park.
In 1977 the national park saw a name change, to Uluru and Kata Tjuta National (Ayers Rock-Mt Olga) National Park.
on 26th October 1985, the Anangu people were recognised as the traditional owners of the park, and given back the deeds to their native lands. The Anangu leased the lands to the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service for 99 years, and continues to be jointly managed.
The park was renamed to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in 1993.
Climbing Uluru is no longer possible.
The controversial tourist money-raiser was stopped on 26th October 2019, after years of concerns raised by the Anangu people who own the land.
Uluru has been visited by Prince and Princess of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Prince Charles and Princess Diana were here in 1983 as part of their Australia tour, with Kate and William visiting over 30 years later in 2014.
Unusual Uluru Facts
The World’s Most Famous Rock
It’s hard to say this is 100% a fact, but Uluru just appear on top of most of the ‘world’s most famous rock‘ lists I’ve seen.
Step aside, Gibraltar, Blarney, Rosetta and Dwayne Johnson, Uluru beats you all!
An Infamous Story
In 1980, one of the most infamous stories in Australia history took place at an Uluru campsite.
Nine-week old Azaria Chamberlain was taken from her tent by a dingo, leading to a story which everyone had an opinion on, and ended up with the imprisonment, and subsequent release of her mother Lindy Chamberlain.
There have been three inquests, the first and fourth agreeing that a dingo was the cause of death, the second finding that Lindy should be charged with murder, and the third left open.
Wetter Than You Think
Uluru gets around 300mm of rainfall on an average year.
When you consider Melbourne has about 650mm, that’s a surprisingly large amount.
Three Dozen Deaths
It is estimated that 37 people died on Uluru during the period that climbing was allowed on the rock, with most suffering heart attacks, but some people slipping and falling off the steep sides.
Having spent a few month telling my Australia colleagues I was visiting Uh-lur-roo, and getting confused looks, I finally figures out I was getting the pronunciation wrong.
To get yourself understand, try ooo-luh-roo instead.
In the 2020 update to their ‘Ultimate Travel List 500’ book, Lonely Planet writers voted Uluru as the 3rd best place to visit on earth.
- Hardcover Book
- Planet, Lonely (Author)
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