The Upside Down Under
Kalkajaka, the Black Mountain


There have been many cases of people, horses and even herds of cattle disappearing within the many crevices, caverns, caves and rock formations of Black Mountain (Kalkajaka), never to be seen again.

A few kilometres inland from the gorgeous beaches of Far North Queensland is a mountain. It’s not a mountain like any you’ve seen before, however. Instead of peaks and cliffs, it’s a huge piled-up mound of slick black boulders. The huge, pitch-black cluster of boulders can clearly be seen on Google Earth, sticking out from the green of the surrounding landscape.

Google Map of Black Mountain

Black Mountain, known to the Aboriginals as Kalkajaka meaning ‘the place of the spear’, is located in Queensland, approximately 25km south west of Cooktown.  It is managed, and forms part of, Kalkajaka National Park and is protected under the Nature Conservation Act 1992.

The mountain consists of large piles of black granite rocks and huge granite boulders, some of which are said to be the size of small houses. The absence of soil between the boulders and rocks create a maze of gaps and passages, which can be used to penetrate inside the mountain. These rocks can become extremely hot.

Black Mountain Boulders perspective
Black Mountain Boulders perspective

The national park's distinctive hard granite boulders were originally formed out of magma that first slowly solidified under the Earth's crust eons ago.  The softer land surfaces above the solidified magma eroded away over time, leaving the magma's fractured top to be exposed as a mountain of grey granite boulders blackened by a film of microscopic blue-green algae growing on the exposed surfaces.

Black Mountain Boulders
Black Mountain Boulders

Colder rains falling on the dark, heated granite boulders causes the boulders to progressively fracture, break, and slowly disintegrate, sometimes explosively.

The Mysterious Disappearances at Black Mountain

There have been many cases of people, horses and even herds of cattle disappearing within its many crevices, caverns, caves and rock formations, never to be seen again.  Local police and trackers looking for the missing have also vanished.

  • The first documented disappearance, involving European Settlers, occurred in 1877, when a man went out towards Black Mountain on horseback, looking for a stray calf. Widespread searches were conducted when neither the calf, the horse or the man returned, but no trace of them was ever found.
  • A few years later, a criminal named Sugarfoot Jack and a few of his companions took refuge near the mountain after a shootout, and again an exhaustive police search could find no trace of them.
  • A constable named Ryan was one of the next legendary victims of the mountain — he was tracking a fugitive with the help of local trackers, but the trail ended abruptly at the mouth of one of the mountain’s many caves. Ryan stepped into the cave to try and find the fugitive, but never came back out. None of the others in the group were game to look for him.
  • A pair of police officers of whom one disappeared and the other made it out alive but was driven insane
  • Two cavers and the trackers who were sent to find them afterwards disappeared.
  • A backpacker named Harry Page went missing and he has been the only person whose body has been recovered from the mountain, though his cause of death was unknown.

In addition, there have been reports of strange sounds, the appearance of ‘spirits’ or human-like shadows in the area, and peculiar air turbulences and magnetic disturbances which have been reported by pilots.

It is believed by some that those who vanished most probably fell into one of the chasms under the rocks or after entering one of these places became lost.  It is estimated only three in ten would survive such falls, wandering below the Earth's surface with only ground water streams and insects to nourish them.

Close-up of Black Mountain Boulders
Close-up of Black Mountain Boulders

One experienced bushman who penetrated into the mountain armed with a pistol and flashlight gave a harrowing account of his experience within:

I stepped into the opening, like other Black Mountain caves it dipped steeply downwards, narrowing as it went. Suddenly I found myself facing a solid wall of rock, but to the right there was a passageway just large enough for me to enter in a stooping position.

I moved along it carefully for several yards. The floor was fairly level, the walls of very smooth granite. The passage twisted and turned this way and that, always sloping deeper into the earth.

Presently I began to feel uneasy. A huge bat beat its wings against me as it passed, however I forced myself on, to push further. Soon my nostrils were filled with a sickly musty stench. Then my torch went out. I was in total darkness.

From somewhere, that seemed the bowels of the earth I could hear a faint moaning which was then followed by the flapping of wings of thousands of bats. I began to panic as I groped and floundered back the way I thought I had come. My arms and legs were bleeding from bumps with unseen rocks. My outstretched hands clawed at space, I expected solid walls and floors, but could not find it.

At one stage where I had wandered into a side passage, I came to the brink of what was undoubtedly a precipice-judging by the echoes. The air was foul and I felt increasing dizziness. Terrifying thoughts were racing through my mind about giant rock-pythons I have seen around this mountain. As I crawled along, getting weaker and loosing hope of ever coming out alive, I saw a tiny streak of light. It gave me super strength to worm my way towards a small cave mouth half a mile from the one I had entered.

Reaching the open air I gulped in lungfuls of it and fell down exhausted. I later found that I had been underground for five hours, most of the time on my hands and knees. A King’s ransom would not induce me to enter those caves again.

The Cultural Significance of Black Mountain

The mountains are a place of cultural significance for the Kuku Yalanji people, who call them Kalkajaka, or 'place of the spear'. They contain at least four sites of religious or mythological significance on the mountain. These are the ...

  • Kambi, a large rock with a cave where flying-foxes are found;
  • Julbanu, a big grey kangaroo-shaped rock looking toward Cooktown;
  • Birmba, a stone facing toward Helenvale where sulphur-crested cockatoos are seen;
  • and a taboo place called Yirrmbal near the foot of the range.


Alien theorists connect this place with extra-terrestrial activity.  Although the geological process is a common pattern in the birth of countless mountains throughout the world, Kalkajaka is said to be quite different and some claim it was built by artificial means, and that it is a ruin of an ancient extinct civilization dating back many thousands of years.

The discussion of mysterious features of the Black Mountain featured in an episode of the Ancient Aliens television series on the History Channel. The series claimed that the hills of the Kalkajaka could have been formed by ancient astronauts who piled the huge boulders to cover up a massive mining operation, or, alternatively, that the boulders were debris formed as a result of the mining operation.

There’s definitely something odd about Black Mountain, though we may never know exactly what it is. To this day no one has ever explored it fully enough to uncover its secrets, and it’s unlikely that anyone ever will, though many have tried.

Whether one believes any of the folklore or spooky stories surrounding Black Mountain, it is certainly a harsh, unfriendly place that instills a certain sense of unease and dread in those who see it.

There is a sense that this menacing mound of boulders in the middle of the Australian wilderness is a place shunned by the rest of the natural world.

An enigmatic place of natural wonder, mystery, and intangible fear, this strange mountain of black boulders continues to invite more souls to join its many unfathomable mysteries.


The Mysterious Black Mountain of Queensland

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