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Showing posts from February, 2018

Rock of ages: our letter in Men's Journal

A tale of a missed opportunity!
I was approached back in December 2017 by Men's Journal for a comment on their piece featuring the Longitude 131 resort at Ayers Rock. The email from the assistant editor read as follows:


Hi Marc! Hows it going? We came across a story of yours on The Australian regarding the ban on climbing Uluru.  We recently ran a story about Uluru as a tourist spot, and were hoping to include a letter in our next issue about the importance of the area and the imminent ban. What are your personal thoughts on banning visitors from climbing, and how do you think it will affect the area in terms of tourism? Thanks so much.
After a little thought I replied with the following tale of personal discovery:

In 1998 I started a job as a geologist for the Northern Territory Geological Survey. Work required travel to some of the remotest pasts of central Australia including parts of the Tanami desert only accessible by helicopter. Coming from the lush green forests of the east coas…

History of climbing Ayers Rock: Part 1 33000BC to 1873AD

History of climbing Ayers Rock: Part 1 33000BC to 1873AD
The proposed ban on climbing Ayers Rock will bring to an end a 35000 year old tradition of climbing that likely began when the first humans arrived at the foot of this grand rock outcrop. The arrival of humans in the arid region of central Australia is dated at about 35-29,000 BP[1]from two cave shelters: Puritjarra and Kulpi Mara in the Western MacDonnell Ranges about 160 km north of Ayers Rock. No dating has been undertaken at Ayers Rock, but it is reasonable to assume that the area probably saw intermittent habitation by humans around the same time, give or take a millennia or two. Given the universality of human curiosity and the strategic importance of Ayers Rock as a water resource and vantage point, it is likely that the first climbers of the rock were among those first arrivals 35,000 years ago. From their lookout they would have seen the end of the megafauna, and seen off the ice age that ended the march of the sand dun…

Traditional Owners promised "business as usual"

Business as Usual Promised... but will be broken with the proposed ban on climbing. The following transcript from Hansard Tuesday, 15 November 1983.No mention of the climb being an issue!

MR HOLDING: ... I have received a telex which sets out fully the attitudes and the hopes of Aboriginal people in respect of Ayers Rock and their perception of its role in their lives, and at the same time the way in which they believe it ought to be developed, both in terms of their perceived interests and the interests of all Australians. I will read that telex without comment because I believe it gives everybody an opportunity to understand the attitude of the Aboriginal people on this matter. It states:

The CLC and the Pitjantjatjara Council are extremely concerned that the enlightened gesture of the Commonwealth Government in granting Aboriginal people title to Uluru National Park has already been distorted by the NT Chief Minister Mr Everingham for perceived political advantage.

Before the facts ar…

Climbing Legends #8 A bear climbs the rock

Climbing legends
Series of posts celebrating climbers of Ayers Rock.
#8 Bromley Bear climbs the most splendid rock in the whole world
Bromley's Motto "Let's do it!"
In 1986 Alan and Patricia Campbell chronicled and photographed the amazing adventures of Bromley Bear in Central Australia. The Campbell's published this captivating tale in 1993 under the title: Bromley climbs Uluru. Uluru is the most splendid rock in the whole world. After some desert fun with Skye the Unicorn and his best pal Koala Bromley climbs the rock. On top he meets a Dingo called Kurpanga who shows him a waterhole and a safe way down.
According to the Campbells "Bromley, the outdoor adventure bear is the Indiana Jones of the bear world. Bromley is more than just a bear with a name, he is the outdoor bear with attitude. He does not sit back and dream of adventure, he is out there experiencing the danger, the joy, the fun of living an adventurous life."  Bromley’s Motto is: "Let'…

Tellurometer connection from Ayers rock, NT, 1969

Tellurometer connection from Ayers rock, NT
From the XNATMAP website. A great archive of Australia's surveying history.

Some wonderful footage of the 1969 Groundmarking for Aerodist field season. Note that there is no sound track. The summit cairn was replaced by the pedestal and bronze plaque a year later.


The sign at the base of the rock caught our attention. It reads:  NOTICE
The public is hereby notified that the climbing of this rock is a difficult and dangerous feat and that this board accepts no responsibility for injury or loss of life to persons engaged in climbing the rock.  Rescue gear is available at the curator's cottage. by order of the board. A Prose  - Chairman.


Climbing Legends #7 The poets 1952-3

Climbing legends
Series of posts celebrating climbers of Ayers Rock.
On reaching the top, the feeling of exultation made everything worthwhile . . . though the sense of tremendous space on all sides, in this rolling ocean of desert, cannot be properly described... #7 A dash to Ayers Rock
A dash to Ayers Rock, published 1972
In January 1953 the Centralian Advocate records the flying visit of Cyril E Goode, Rex Ingamells and Bert Phillips to Alice Springs. Bert and Cyril had left Melbourne some days previous driving "an ancient ... Rolls Royce buck board ute", collecting Rex in Adelaide on the way through. The report is likely a few weeks old as the three were in the region around Christmas 1952. Not the best time to be travelling in Central Australia!  Rolls Royce Ute owned by Connellan Airways on display at Alice Springs Airport, perhaps similar to the "poetmobile"?

We met a few mates today
In a town they call The Alice
And so we joked the hours away
And drained the foaming…

Old Guide Books Ayers Rock and the Olgas

The first professional tourist guide books about Ayers Rock and The Olgas were published in (about) 1961. These were authored by anthropologist Charles Mountford and artist Ainslie Roberts.
The titles include "Your Guide to Ayers Rock" and "Your Guide to The Olgas"
Images of some of the pages are provided below. These booklets provide a wonderful overview of the area and Aboriginal myths associated with both locations. Modern guides are quite lacking in comparison.
A few pages from Your Guide to Ayers Rock
About the Ayers Rock climb the guide states:  "To climb the Rock is a much more strenuous task, but well within the ability of anyone in good health. Many hundreds, possibly thousands of people, have made this climb and enjoyed the view from the summit."
A few pages from Your guide to Mt Olga
The Olgas Guide book includes some directions about climbing to the summit cairn of Mount Olga, this is a much more difficult task than walking up Ayers Rock. (Note …