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A historical overview of the discovery of Uluru (Ayers Rock) starting 30,000 years ago, to the first flight, first track and tourism development.


Archaeological work in Cleland Hills, north of Uluru, in 1987 suggests that Aboriginal people were living in this region at least 22,000 years ago, while work in the MacDonnell Ranges in 1994 suggests habitation in Central Australia dates back 30,000 years.

The Central Australian landscape, of which Uluru and Kata Tjuta are an important part, is believed to have been created at the beginning of time. The Anangu Aboriginal people are responsible for the protection and appropriate management of these ancestral lands. The knowledge necessary to fulfil these responsibilities has been passed down from generation to generation.

During the 1870s, William Giles and William Gosse were the first white explorers to this region. Giles was the first to reach Kata Tjuta and named it The Olgas after the then reigning Queen Olga of Wurttemburg. Gosse, however, was the first to reach Uluru and named it Ayers Rock after his superior, Sir Henry Ayers, the Chief Secretary of South Australia.

In the early 1900s the Government declared ownership of the land and by the 1950s tourists and miners had begun to make tracks to Uluru and Kata Tjuta. At the time only a few Anangu were living at Uluru. However, as tourist numbers grew, most of the Anangu there scattered into other regions within Central Australia.

By the early 1970s, the pressure of tourism was having detrimental effects on the environment and the government agreed in 1973 to relocate accommodation facilities to a new site.

It was not until 1979 that, in recognition of the existence of traditional Aboriginal owners of Uluru and Kata Tjuta, a national park was acknowledged. In 1983 Prime Minister Hawke announced the government's intention to grant ownership of the land back to the traditional owners. The agreement, however, required the traditional owners to lease the park to the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service for a period of 99 years.

Discovery of Uluru (Ayers Rock)

In 1873, Englishman William Christie Gosse became the first European to climb Uluru (Ayers Rock), after a three month trek from Alice Springs with a camel train, Afghan cameleers and eight months of provisions. Gosse named the Rock after Sir Henry Ayers, then Chief Secretary who later became Premier of  South Australia. It might  well have taken another name had explorer Ernest Giles managed  to reach and climb the Rock when he sighted it a year earlier. Giles did manage, however, to sight Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) in 1872, and named them after Queen Olga of Wurttemberg. He was then forced to turn back to Alice after being blocked by the treacherous salty marshes of Lake Amadeus, 50 kilometres to the north of Uluru.

The first flight to Ayers Rock

In 1930, the first aeroplane landed  at Uluru, piloted by journalist Errol Coote. He was a member of Harold Lasseter’s original support party when Lasseter made his unsuccessful attempt to locate a reef of gold in the south-west corner of the Northern Territory.

The first track to Ayers Rock

The 1930s also marked the carving of the first rough track from Erldunda (193 kilometres south west of Alice Springs) to Uluru by pastoralist Sid Stanes of Erldunda Station. The track traversed sand dune country and, after heavy rains, was badly rutted, boggy and often impassable. It was not until the early 1940s that the first graded road linked the Alice and Uluru.

Read more about Tourism Development & History of Ayers Rock Resort 

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