Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Mount Connor   Artila 

This is a mesa, or isolated table-top mountain, about 100 km to the east of Uluru (Ayre's Rock) and Kata Juta (the Olgas), with which it shares its origin. It is about 5 km long by 4 km wide, and stands about 244 m above the surrounding mulga and spinifex plains, it is roughly semi-circular in shape. As with Uluru and Kata Tjuta, its rocks are more resistant than the surrounding plains that have been lowered by erosion to reveal it. The lower 2/3 of the mesa are comprised of talus slopes, the top 90 m being sheer vertical cliffs. The only breaks in the rim of the mesa are on the southern side, which is strait, not being curved like the remainder of the outline, where some gorges have been eroded through. Its rocks are the same colour as those of Uluru and Kata Tjuta, and like them, appears to be be of different colours as the angle of the sun changes throughout the day.

The sediments that formed the rocks of Mt Connor were deposited in a shallow sea much earlier than those of Uluru and Kata Tjuta, and unlike them, the strata were not subsequently tilted by ground movements, remaining horizontal. The rocks are of 2 main types, hard conglomerate with outcropping quartzite forming the top part, while the lower rocks are of coarse sandstone that in some places is interbedded with shale. As the sandstones are much softer than the upper, more resistant rocks, they are more prone to erosion, resulting in the formation of depressions and caves that penetrate as much as 30 m into the side of the mountain. There are also places where the cliffs overhang, in some cases by up to 10-15 m. The rocks of these overhangs the undermined cliffs sometimes drop off, the accumulation of the debris of varying sizes comprising the talus around the base.

The top of the mesa has been described as a microcosm of the surrounding plains, of which it was once a part. It is vegetated with spinifex, mulga and small scrub, and, like the surrounding plains, responds to rain with a mass blooming of wild flowers. The summit, though appearing flat and horizontal, actually dips slightly to the south, which would be the reason the drainage has produced the gorges only on the south side, the surface dipping more markedly above the gorges.

Aboriginal stories

In the Dreamtime stories of the local Aboriginal People it is connected with the feared Ninya, or Ice Men, the creators of cold weather. The Ninya are believed to have camped at Artila during the Dreamtime, but now they live about 25 km away to the north beneath a dry lake. The Aboriginal People believe that when deep cracks form on the soles of their feet they are caused by ice left in the grass by the Ninya. There is evidence on the coarse pebbles of the mesa that at some point in the past, presumably in the Pleistocene ice age, the area did indeed undergo some degree of glaciation. Maybe the dreamtime stories in this area are memories of the glacial phase that has been passed on through many generations. History remembered in stories.

Mt Conner, especially the caves, is a refuge to some rock-dwelling marsupials and bats.

Sources & Further reading
  1. Helen Grasswill & Reg Morrison, Australia, a Timeless Grandeur, Lansdowne, 1981
  2. Penny Van Oosterzee, The Centre - The Natural history of Australia's Desert Regions, Reed Australia, 1993
  3. Twidale, C.R. & Campbell, E.M., 2005, Australian Landforms: Understanding a Low, Flat, Arid, and Old Landscape, Rosenberg Publishing Pty Ltd.


Author: M. H. Monroe
Last updated 19/04/2011



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