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Australia's Natural Wonders

The Olgas (Kata Tjuta), NT

Location: the Red Centre, Northern Territory

Kata Tjuta, sometimes written Kata Joota, and also known as Mount Olga (or colloquially as The Olgas), are a group of large domed rock formations located about 365 km southwest of Alice Springs in the southern part of the NT. Uluru, 25 km to the east and Kata Tjuta form the two major landmarks within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
The 36 domes, covering an area of 21.68 km2, 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 1066 m above sea level, or approximately 546 m above the surrounding plain (203 m higher than Uluru).
The site is as sacred to the Indigenous people as Uluru. 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 Wanambi who is said to live on the summit of Mount Olga and only comes down during the dry season. Many ceremonies were, and are still carried out here, particularly at night. One of these former ceremonies included a type of public punishment that in extreme cases included death.

The Name

The Pitjantjatjara name Kata Tjuta means 'many heads'. 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 Wurttemberg.

Queen Olga of Wurttemberg, Grand Duchess of Russia, 1900. Painting by Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-1873)

She and her husband King Karl 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.
On 15th 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 6th November 2002, following a request from the regional Tourism Association, the order of the dual names were officially reversed to Kata Tjuta / Mount Olga.

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