Uluru is a world class natural wonder that belongs to all of us. The Australian tradition of climbing the rock stretches back 35,000 years. This long established cultural tradition is under threat by a small group of bureaucrats determined to impose their way on the rest of the world. It is right to Climb because we have the right to Climb. Don't let irrational beliefs and petty nanny state bureaucrats take it away.
Search This Blog
Climbing Legends #9: Knox Grammar Scientific Expedition, 1950 Part 2
Climbing legends Series of posts celebrating climbers of Ayers Rock. #9 Knox Grammar Scientific Expedition: First Schoolboys and Masters to climb the Rock, 1950
Knox Grammar boys walking across the top of Ayers Rock,1950.
The Knox Grammar Ayers Rock Scientific Expedition is a remarkable achievement. There's a wonderful movie of the expedition "Red Horizon", narrated by Edrich Chaffer, one of the student participants, that we highly recommend viewing (see Part 1).
The expedition left Sydney on August 30, 1950 and travelling by plane, train and automobile arrived at Ayers Rock late on the evening of the 5th of September. The same trip these days takes about three and half hours.
In Red Horizon Edrich ends his narration about the expedition stating: "It set me on a career where I personally had learnt one of the most important lessons of all, and that was: how to think. And I found it invaluable in my career ever afterwards. And I can only thank Tom Erskine, William Bryden, our headmaster, for making the opportunity for young formative minds to be developed in such an excellent way".
So sad that the scientific nature of the Knox Expedition has been replaced with myth, superstition and political correctness that dominates modern school visits to Ayers Rock. Very soon they will not even be able to experience the joy, wonder and awe of climbing the Rock. Without the spirit of science, adventure and discovery that characterised the Knox Grammar Expedition few students these days are likely to gain memories and experiences that will leave such a lasting, life changing impression. A few Instagram moments of the "climb is closed" sign and being told "what to think" is unlikely to inspire the next generation of student visitors above mediocrity. Australasian photo-review articles
The story of the expedition was written down by GRW Latham, in a series of articles published in the Australasian photo-review available on-line through the National Library of Australia's Trove website.
Articles are spread over three issues.
Part 1: April 1951 Page 233-237 Departing Sydney and arriving at Ayers Rock
Part 2 (May 1951) Page 299-303 Exploration around Ayers Rock and the Climb
Part 3 (June 1951) Page 350-353, and 357. Anthropological lessons and the journey home.
The articles include some remarkable photographs.
Charles Mountford and four Aboriginals on the rock - likely Old Bob, Chulki, Barney and Unknown
27 members of the group climbed to the summit on Thursday September 7, 1950. Latham recounts:
"The Great climb occupied all of Thursday morning. On the western side there is the most gentle slope averaging about 45° but in places it probably exceeds 60° or so. Except for little flakes which may 'give' when trodden upon the rock surface is smooth, offering nothing upon which the hands can grip. Down each side of the climbing ridge the Rock slopes down precipitously to the ground. You would only slip once on that climb! This ridge finishes directly above the top of the ravine; away down below we could see the camp, barely visible at the end of the road as it snaked its way in and from the sand dunes.
From the base of the Rock, running out to die in the desert, were green tracts of vegetation. These were the ends of small creeks, fed by the huge catchment area of the Rock, but incapable of far penetration into the sandy wastes. The wild grasses growing in these river beds stood fully six feet tall; in the larger water holes, water still lingered from recent heavy rains.
A short walk and a final climb completed the ascent to the cairn at the summit. Here beneath a heap of stones, was a coffee jar serving to keep safe the names of previous climbers - practical and theoretical; some lists were obviously written by the one hand, and it is therefore open to doubt whether all those listed really climbed to the top. The names we found are given in the accompanying table (ed see below): some of them were very difficult to read and I apologise in advance for any errors.
There was little grass and a few shrubs growing at the top, while a group of boys claimed to have seen a wallaby. In some of the wind holes a little water remained. Three of us went out to the eastern end, but honour was hardly worth the effort , since the route is crossed by innumerable wind furrows. These measure up to fifteen feet deep, all running NW-SE. They are the result of differential weathering of the Rock's strata which are vertical to the ground. From the eastern end, Lake Amadeus could be seen as a thin white line extending along the horizon.
Two of the more energetic boys achieved the 1100ft climb in twenty five minutes; and another climbed twice in the one morning for a wager!"
Latham concludes the series thus: No matter what expenses have been incurred or what work yet remains, there are no regrets by any member. A chance like this comes to very few in a lifetime. Should you think it futile sending BOYS so far, just recall that they will be MEN soon: men with first hand knowledge of the heart of their own country .... Australia.
Knox Grammar School Expedition Cairn List (7 September 1950)
7/3/1931 W McKinnon
19/2/1932 W McKinnon
21/7/1933 H Fuller, TI Whalker
28/5/1936 The Foy Expedition which included Bob Buck
4/11/1939 Cutlack’s Expedition including V Dumas, F Clune, E Bails
7/8/1940 CP Mountford, LE Sheard
14/8/1940 CP Mountford, LE Sheard
30/6/1946 LA Borgelt, Cliff Thompson, Tiger, Metingerie
21/4/1947 Arthur Groom
23/9/1948 JM Bechervaise, DuConnelly, S Staines, Simpson, Parker
1949 Kimber, Ross, Bonython
6/5/1950 Malcolm R Senior
14/8/1950 The Melbourne University Expedition
7/9/1950 Knox Grammar School Expedition: AW Briggs, AC Brown, W Bryden, VFO Francis, GRW Latham, R Miller, B Rhys-Jones, D Patten, M Hughes, EK Chaffer, I Brown, B Piper, D Grainger, B Ross, Ww Graham, I Macfarlane, M Lees, I Quinlan, J Bannigan, J Neave, J Williams, J Young, J Stranger, J Graham, J Laurie, JA Walker, J Schroder.
17th death on the Rock ABC report that a 76 year old Japanese man collapsed on the steep part of the climb and despite first aid, was not able to be revived. The elderly Japanese man likely died as a result of heart complications, probably brought on by existing (perhaps unknown) medical conditions and over exerting himself. He appears to have died revelling in the opportunity life provides. RIP Brother of the Rock. Our thoughts with his family and the first attenders who did their best to treat him. It's sad, but life goes on, and so should the climb.
His death marks the 17th death ON the Rock since 26 May 1962 when 16 year old school boy Brian Strieff, on a school excursion with Carey Grammar, wondered off the main path in heavy fog on the way down and fell to his death.
ABC's report indicate it is the 37th death, but these figures from Parks Australia have not been substantiated. It seems that many of the deaths Parks Australia claim to have occurred ON the Rock occurred in…
A pictorial response to arguments against climbing Ayers RockIt's too dangerous
Group of women aged 19-70 climb Ayers Rock as part of the 1957 Petticoat Safari. This was prior to the chains being installed. Since the 1950s over 6,000,000 people of all ages have climbed the rock. In that time there have been a reported 36 deaths mainly heart attacks to older men, not acclimatised to the heat of central Australia. If you are fit and healthy and stick to the marked path climbing Ayers Rock is an exhilarating adventure but a decidedly low risk activity. Here's Arthur Groom's take on the climbing options: extract from I saw a strange land Various writers have described Ayers Rock as difficult of ascent, when in reality it is a trained mountaineer's job on the east-south-east corner, a rough and steep scramble up at least two places on its southern side, and nothing else but a strenuous and spectacular uphill walk on its western side. It’s a Sacred Site, climbing is disrespect…
Coming soon... Climber's Handbook: A guide to climbing Ayers Rock.
Everything you wanted to know about climbing the rock at the heart of Australia but were too afraid to ask...
History of discovery and climbing
Facts and figures
Geology and Geomorphology
Reasons to climb
Chronicles of the fallen
Best time to climb
What to wear
How to climb
What you can see from the summit
Things to do at the summit
Selected climbs and hikes in central Australia Hoping to hit the internet book shelves in time for Christmas 2018. In the meantime wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I just want one thing in my Christmas stocking: a ban of the ban!