Australia’s sandstone monolith Uluru is an immensely sacred place to the local Aangu people, and somewhere many people have dreamed of visiting one day.
Now Uluru is available on Google Street View, offering the internet an up-close look at the ochre, rust, wild plum, and charcoal hues of the rock, which measures 348 metres (1,142 ft) high, and has a circumference of 9.4 kilometres (5.8 mi).
With Google’s new offering, users all over the world can walk through the desert sands that surround the rock; a land that carries sacred “songlines” stories about the journeys and battles of ancestors.
Street View at Uluru also features Google’s Story Spheres platform, which incorporates audio stories and songs of the Aangu people into the experience as the site could never be truly understood without knowing its rich cultural history.
The incorporation of Story Spheres is also significant, as these stories and songs are primarily unrecorded, and are traditionally handed down orally.
It took two years to make it happen. Google liaised with the Aangu traditional owners of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Parks Australia and the Northern Territory Government.
“This is not one of those projects that you can launch immediately. It requires deep sensitivity and partnership, and the partnerships we’ve built here we expect to evolve and grow into the near future,” Google Australia and New Zealand’s Managing Director, Jason Pellegrino, said.
Images of the site had to be captured with respect to local Tjukurpa law, which means certain areas around Uluru considered too sacred to be photographed have been omitted from the map.
“Sometimes visitors come here and they see a beautiful place, but they don’t understand the Tjukurpa, the culture and the law and the knowledge and the history that this place holds. It’s the living keeper of our culture,” Sammy Wilson, Aangu traditional owner of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, said in a statement.
“We want to teach those visitors about the Aangu understanding of this place.”