Sunday, April 8, 2007

Devil's Marbles

If you drive along the highway through the scenic Australian desert near the outback town of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, you will encounter a wierd and wonderful sight. Mysteriously balanced on top of one another, are giant boulders of granite, miraculously smooth and round, like marbles. Some of these are split into half as though stricken by a bolt of lightning thrown by Zeus himself. Non-Aboriginal people call them Devil's Marbles - marbles of the devil or giants. Aborigines, who believe they are the eggs of the Rainbow Serpent know them as Karlu Karlu.

Scattered across a wide, shallow valley, the Devils Marbles consist of thousands of granite boulders precariously balanced on top of one another. Geological evidence exists that molten lava from deep within the earth's crust was squeezed into huge domes just below the surface and the rocky overlay was worn away over an estimated 1500 million years to expose the boulders. The Devils Marbles range in size from tiny to massive to tiny, and often glow with a dramatic fiery colour at sunset. They are on average about 4m high and from 13m to 33m wide.

John Flynn's Grave
One of the marbles was removed from a formation in 1953 and taken to Alice Springs to form a permanent memorial to John Flynn, the founder of the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Australia. At the time, this was seen as a way of remembering his link to the outback, but in later decades it was a source of great Controversy because the rock was removed from a sacred site without the direct permission of the tribal elders. In the late 1990s, a boulder swap was arranged, and the missing marble was removed from the grave, cleaned, and returned to its original place. The grave is now marked with a similar boulder donated by the local Arrernte people.


Anonymous said...

WoW! its a big rock!

Mark said...

The rainbow serpent story is not true- no aborignal people in the area believe the site has anything to do with a snake. Check the NT Parks Service website for an accurate account.