Uluru "removed" from Google Street View

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/09/25/uluru-removed-from-google-street-view.html


Interesting. When I visited over 20 years ago I remember learning that the indigenous Australians considered it disrespectful to climb Uluru (even though the practice was still allowed at the time as long as visitors stayed on the path) but I don’t remember any mention of photos.

I guess it makes sense that if one considers the act of climbing the rock a kind of desecration then one wouldn’t like the idea of being able to reenact that desecration online.


But this implies it is the act of seeing the rock that is at issue, not the mere act of climbing it, alone.


I wonder if drone tours would square the religious circle. Nice little earner!


I can get why they would not want their sacred rock being continuously buzzed by drones.
I do not get why they object to existing video/360 degree images being seen.


I’m not sure I agree because they’re not trying to restrict seeing or photographing it from other angles. The pictures they’re asking to be taken down were taken by, and include imagery of, people actively walking on their sacred landmark.


Ah - if it is only the images of people walking on it, rather than images of the rock itself, only, then I get it.


Although the reasoning wasn’t clear in the BB article, the linked article states:

Google Maps’ street view function allows people to move around environments as part of a virtual walking tour.

It contains 360-degree images of the summit of Uluru, allowing users to effectively defy the visitors’ ban.

If this is true, I disagree with this sentiment - and this comes from someone who recognizes themselves to be of Aboriginal descent. I understand and respect the notion of not having individuals trample sacred sites. But the trampling is already done here, removing it seems to serve little purpose but to give folks no other option than desecration if they want to stand on the summit, and speaking from experience, there are more than enough folks who could care less about aboriginal culture and customs (completely aside from religion) who will do just that.


ah, now, that makes sense. I admit, I was puzzled but yeah, I see that.


It seems like it’s the walking path up the rock that’s the issue. Some of the “street view” pics clearly show visitors walking on the rock and others don’t, but all the pics in the series were taken by people walking on Uluru.

As far as I can tell, aerial photography of the rock isn’t the thing that people find disrespectful. It’s not about seeing the rock, it’s about walking on it.

As the article states, that’s no longer an option. Parks Australia cut off access to would-be hikers in October 2019.

In full disclosure I was one of the tourists that climbed Uluru when I visited over 20 years ago, but I feel pretty bad about it and wouldn’t do it again even if I could.


Uluru is an amazing sight. I was there in 2009, and had an opportunity to walk on it, but chose not to, after our Anangu guide told us about its place in their culture. I’m not a religious person, so I don’t assign sacredness to physical objects, but I’m also not a dick.


Ah, this makes much more sense, then.

I went up to the top of Mauna Kea in 2015, just shy of the summit. The summit is a very important location (complete with altar) for the Aboriginal population of Hawai’i, and while my partner and I made a decision to NOT go up there, and even with the chastizing of the tour-guide that going up there was something folks shound not do, about 50% of the tour members went up anyway.


Peer pressure is a big thing, especially when there isn’t an actual rule in place against Doing the Thing, especially when they don’t tell you it’s disrespectful until you get there. For me it was also a combination of “we traveled thousands of miles to be here, the rest of the tour group is doing it, and the person I’m currently having sex with really really wants to see the view from the top.” So as a probably-not-as-woke-as-I-should-have-been-21-year-old it was easy to rationalize at the time.


when mrs. navarro and i went to australia in 2014 we were told that we could only take pictures of uluru from one side of it. when the tourbus drove the loop around all of it we were instructed we could not take pictures of the other side of it.


I was there in 2003 and I remember there being signs around the path that, in a few places, asked politely to not take photographs, but it was pretty specific.

Likewise, I recall a sign at the bottom of that path (I’m usually one to scramble up most anything) that had a very polite request to the effect of “while climbing Uluru allowed by law, we consider it disrespectful and would ask that you reconsider climbing to the top. If you do climb, though, please do be careful” – so I took a pass on going up.


To offer a parallel example of indigenous feelings about sacred spaces, there’s a mountain near my hometown in Montana that has spiritual significance to the local Chippewa and Cree tribes, located on the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation. Although the tribe doesn’t forbid non-Natives from hiking the mountain, they ask non-natives to only do so in an organized group with a tribal liaison as a guide. The guide provides some historical, cultural and spiritual context for the mountain during the hike, so that visitors experience the space as more than just a rock to walk up or a tourist attraction.

I could imagine that the Pitjantjatjara would agree with that sentiment, that part of the problem isn’t just the human traffic on the sacred site, but also the ignorance of the colonizers and tourists hiking the site (in person or virtually) without context or respect.

I may not fully understand or believe in the metaphysical aspect of their wishes with Uluru, but it’s their space, not mine. Ignoring those wishes is just another form of colonialism.


That’s really key for me. I don’t share similar religious beliefs, but I sure as hell am aware of the fact that there is history and culture wrapped up in those spaces, and the preservation of both is paramount.


You know its there . . . due to the shadow of its gravity.

This is inaccurate. Uluru was not closed to public access last year. Climbing is no longer allowed as of last year. Public access has been closed because of COVID.

A bit of back story. It takes an hour to climb to the top. There’s no public toilets up there. People were literally pissing and shitting on a sacred site. At least 35 people have died trying to climb it, even though locals ask them not too because it’s dangerous (and they feel responsible because it’s in their culture and their connection to country) AND it’s sacred.


While that may be part of it, it seems the photography restrictions have more specific significance.

More detail from:

Tjukurpa and Park Visitors

While Anangu welcome visitors to the Park, they ask that you respect the importance of the place. For Anangu an essential part of ‘keeping the Law straight’ involves ensuring that knowledge is not imparted to the wrong people and that access to significant or sacred sites is not gained by the wrong people, whether wrong means men or women, Piranpa (non-Aboriginal) visitors or certain other Anangu. It is as appropriate for Anangu to care for these places as it is for non-Aboriginal religions to care for their churches, sacred precincts and relics. Even inadvertent access to some sites may be sacrilegious.
At Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park some areas are fenced off and sometimes photography is restricted to ensure visitors do not inadvertently contravene Tjukurpa restrictions. No Photography Signs

Within the bounds of appropriate access, Anangu want visitors to understand how they interpret this landscape through Tjukurpa/Wapar, and believe it will enhance their experience.

Anangu explanations of the Park’s landscape form the core of interpretive materials prepared for visitors. These include brochures and signs and the interpretive display at the Cultural Centre.