Kata Tjuta

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Coordinates: 25°18′S 130°44′E / 25.300°S 130.733°E / -25.300; 130.733

Kata Tjuta
Aerial view of Kata Tjuta

Kata Tjuta, sometimes written Tjuṯa (Kata Joota), and also known as Mount Olga (or colloquially as The Olgas), are a group of large domed rock formations or bornhardts located about 365 km (227 mi) southwest of Alice Springs, in the southern part of the Northern Territory, central Australia. Uluru, 25 km (16 mi) to the east, and Kata Tjuta form the two major landmarks within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

The 36 domes that make up Kata Tjuta cover an area of 21.68 km2 (8.37 sq mi), are composed of conglomerate, a sedimentary rock consisting of cobbles and boulders of varying rock types including granite and basalt, cemented by a matrix of sandstone.

The highest point, Mount Olga, is 1,066 m (3,497 ft) above sea level, or approximately 546 m (1,791 ft) above the surrounding plain (198 m (650 ft) higher than Uluru).[1] Kata Tjuta is located at the eastern end of the Docker River Road.


The alternative name, The Olgas, comes from the tallest peak, Mt. Olga. At the behest of Baron Ferdinand von Mueller, Mt. Olga was named in 1872 by Ernest Giles, in honour of Queen Olga of Württemberg (born Grand Duchess Olga of Russia, daughter of Tsar Nicholas I). She and her husband King Charles I of Wurttemberg had marked their 25th wedding anniversary the previous year by, amongst other things, naming Mueller a Freiherr (baron), making him Ferdinand von Mueller; this was his way of repaying the compliment.[2]

In 15 December 1993, a dual naming policy was adopted that allowed official names consisting of both the traditional Aboriginal name and the English name. As a result, Mount Olga was renamed Mount Olga / Kata Tjuta. On 6 November 2002, following a request from the regional Tourism Association, the order of the dual names was officially reversed to Kata Tjuta / Mount Olga.[3]

Geologic origin[edit]

The region surrounding Kata Tjuta lies in the Amadeus Basin, an intracratonic basin formed during the Adelaidian, roughly 850-800 mya.[4] During the Petermann Orogeny, approximately 550 mya, an event known as the Woodroff Thrust, thrust granulite facies rocks northward over low-grade metamorphic rocks. The eventual erosion of the formation resulted in a molasse facies, or deposition in front of rising mountains, in this case the Petermann Orogeny, to create the deposit known as the Mount Currie Conglomerate. The Mount Currie Conglomerate is made predominately of basalt, porphyry, granite, gneiss and volcanic rock fragments with a matrix composed of angular quartz, microcline and orthoclase among other minerals.

Both Uluru and the Kata Tjuta are made of sediment originating in this Mount Currie Conglomerate and both have a chemical composition similar to granite. Scientists using Rb/Sr dating techniques to accurately date the rock have given it an age of 600 mya, matching the date of the Woodroof Thrust event. The actual fresh rock that makes up the Olgas and Uluru is medium to dark gray with green or pink hues in some laminae. The bright orange-red hue, for which the structures are noted, is due to a patina over finely divided feldspar coated in iron oxide.[5]


There are many Pitjantjatjara Dreamtime legends associated with this place and indeed everything in the vicinity including, of course, Uluru. A number of legends surround the great snake king Wanambi who is said to live on the summit of Kata Tjuta and only comes down during the dry season. The majority of mythology surrounding the site is not disclosed to outsiders.


Kata Tjuta can be accessed via Ayers Rock Airport. It is then a 55 km drive south, then west. Visitors are required to pay a National Park [1] entry fee, which is currently A$25 per person. Visitors can also drive along the Lasseter Highway which joins the Stuart Highway 200 km south of Alice Springs at the township of Erldunda. The drive is 4½ hours from Alice Springs.


A panorama of Kata Tjuta. The Pitjantjatjara name Kata Tjuta means 'many heads'. The site is as sacred to the Indigenous people as Uluru.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Visitors Guide. Retrieved 26 April 2013
  2. ^ Whitlam Institute, University of Western Sydney. Retrieved 28 March 2007
  3. ^ Northern Territory Government — NT Place Names Register. Retrieved 17 November 2007
  4. ^ [2]
  5. ^ Twidale, C. R., Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas); Inselbergs of Central Australia, Chap. 33 in Geomorphological Landscapes of the World, Springer, 2010, ISBN 978-90-481-3054-2

External links[edit]