Balls Pyramid

Ball’s Pyramid is the erosional remnants of a shield volcano and caldera that formed about 7 million years ago. Ball’s Pyramid is 20 km (13 miles) southeast of Lord Howe Island. It is 562 m high, while measuring only 200 m across. It is part of the Lord Howe Island Marine Park. Ball’s Pyramid has a few satellite islets. Observatory Rock and Wheatsheaf Islet lie about 800 m WNW and 800 m WSW, respectively, of the western extremity of Ball’s Pyramid. Southeast Rock is a pinnacle located about 3.5 km southeast of Ball’s Pyramid.

The pyramid was named after Lieutenant Henry Ball who discovered it in 1788 at the same time he discovered Lord Howe Island (see the history section of that article). The first person to go ashore is believed to have been Henry Wilkinson in 1882, who was a geologist at the New South Wales Department of Mines.

The first successful climb to the summit was made on 14th February 1965 by a team of climbers from the Sydney Rock Climbing Club, consisting of Bryden Allen, John Davis, Jack Pettigrew and David Witham. There had been an earlier attempt in 1964 by another Sydney team that included adventurer Dick Smith (then just 20 years old) and other members of the Scouting movement. They were forced to turn back on their fifth day running short of food and water. In 1979 Smith returned to the pyramid, together with climbers John Worrall and Hugh Ward, and they successfully reached the summit. At the top they unfurled a flag of New South Wales provided to them by Premier Neville Wran and declared the island Australian territory (a formality which it seems had not previously been done).

Climbing was banned in 1982 under amendments to the Lord Howe Island Act, and in 1986 all access to the island was banned by the Lord Howe Island Board. In 1990 the policy changed to allow some climbing under strict conditions, which in recent years has required an application to the relevant state Minister.

In 2000/2001 the Lord Howe Island stick insect (Dryococelus australis) insect was found living on the pyramid. (On the unsuccessful 1964 climb, Dave Roots had brought back a photograph of the insect, which the Australian Museum told him they thought was extinct.)


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