Questions are being asked after volunteers from the Northern Territory Emergency Service (NTES) rescued three 22-year-old tourists who spent the night stranded at the top of Uluru (Ayers Rock).
The men were dehydrated and hungry, but otherwise well – but it was a tricky rescue. The men, all Australians, were stuck for 16 hours in a steep-walled crevice after wandering off the path while climbing the rock. They have been branded “idiots” by some on social media.
Claire Barker, Southern Regional Manager from the NTES, told ABC radio the rescue team had done “an amazing job”.
She said the seven-person rescue crew had only their head-torches to guide them to the men. A helicopter was used to transport rescue equipment to the top of Uluru and the volunteer emergency crew abseiled about 520 metres.
Questions have been asked about the cost and risk of such rescues, when people are advised not to climb the rock in the first place. Last year, a Taiwanese tourist slipped into a crevice on Uluru and was trapped on the rock for more than 24 hours.
Earlier this year, then Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Adam Giles, said Uluru was a tourism icon like the Eiffel Tower. He urged Aboriginal custodians to re-consider their traditional disapproval and let tourists climb it, which might make for managed (and thus safer) climbs.
Giles was replaced by the ALP’s Michael Gunner in August elections in the NT.
Many visitors climb the rock and there are a few mishaps. The climb has killed over 35 people since the 1950s. A row of bronze plaques, discreetly placed near the start of the climb, commemorates those who have lost their lives. They fall into two categories: younger people, who die of misadventure, wandering off the path; and older people who suffer heart attacks.
The Anangu people, the Rock’s traditional custodians, “feel great sadness if visitors to their land are killed or injured”, Ayers Rock Resort notes.
Written by Peter Needham