A geological description of Uluru involves several key aspects:
Uluru’s formation began around 500 million years ago during the Cambrian period when the area was covered by a shallow sea. Sediments consisting of sand, silt, and clay accumulated at the bottom of this sea.
The accumulated sediments compacted under the weight of the buildup of overlying material. Eventually, the pressure caused the sediments to become tightly compacted and cemented, leading to the formation of sandstone. Minerals, particularly feldspar, acted as cementing agents, binding the quartz grains together.
Around 300 million years ago, tectonic activity caused the region to rise, exposing the sedimentary layers to erosion by wind and water. The softer rock layers surrounding Uluru eroded away at a faster rate than the more resistant sandstone that makes up Uluru.
The distinctive shape of Uluru, with its sheer vertical sides and flat top, is a result of differential erosion. This process is common to inselbergs, which are isolated rock formations that rise abruptly from relatively flat surroundings.
The striking rust-red color of Uluru is due to the oxidation of iron minerals within the rock. As iron-rich minerals are exposed to the atmosphere, they react with oxygen and moisture to form iron oxide (rust), giving the rock its characteristic hue.
Beyond its geological history, Uluru holds immense cultural importance to the Anangu people, the traditional owners of the land. It is a sacred site with deep spiritual and ceremonial significance.
The rock is within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. In 1985 the park was returned to the Traditional Owners, Anangu, in an event known as Handback.
After an assessment of the physical and cultural impact of tourists on Uluru, climbing on the rock was prohibited starting 26 October 2019. Erosion was a significant issue, as was material left by visitors.
However, the Park is open to visitors, and Uluru can be easily reached from Alice Springs, about a 6-hour drive away.