by Tas Walker, Ph.D.

From Yulara tourist resort in the middle of Australia the mysterious silhouette of Kata Tjuta, once called The Olgas, looms in the west, rising 546 metres above the flat, sandy horizon. These domed shaped rock outcrops, just 40 km west of Ayers Rock, were once known as the Olgas, but now they have the indigenous name of ‘many heads’, or Kata Tjuta.

Lots of water

Circle south around the outcrops and see the tilted layers of sediment. These were deposited when water once flowed across the area. We are told that a depression formed in the earth’s crust about 900 million years ago, a length of time we cannot imagine. But was it really so long ago? We need to remind ourselves that these dates are not measured facts but based on beliefs about the past. And what we see at Kata Tjuta shows us that these rocks did not form over millions and millions of years.

Surprise. When we arrive at Kata Tjuta and walk between the massive domes, we discover it is a huge heap of boulders. Here I’m sitting by an outcrop pointing to an oblong rock lying almost flat. These boulders indicate the way the water was flowing when they were so rapidly deposited.

All the tourists I met expressed amazement at these rocks. During my visit I spoke to many people and often asked this question: ‘How do you think these rocks were deposited? Was it by a little bit of water over a long time, or a huge flow of water over a short time?’ Everyone I asked would chuckle and say ‘A lot of water, of course!’….

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