Tuesday, April 1, 2008

And then there were Eight (Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia)

One of the great touring drives in the world is along a real travel wonder, the Great Ocean Road, west of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. This road hugs the southern coastline of Victoria passing a number of remarkable rock formations, the best known of which is The Twelve Apostles.

Originally called the Sow and the Piglets, the tourism marketing department gathered together, added value and renamed these towers of limestone rock some fifty years ago, though they never numbered twelve.

Two years ago (in July, 2005), one of the Twelve Apostles finally yielded to the years of wave erosion and collapsed into a pile of rubble. After all, the next piece of land south of the Twelve Apostles is Antarctica and so there is nothing to calm or absorb the waves which pound into this unprotected coastline. The soft rock has been gouged away leaving towers of harder rock to withstand the fury of nature’s waves. All down this expressive coastline, the cliffs have been sculptured by years of blowing winds and pounding waves, leaving an assortment of warped and wonderful formations.

Today, these are snapped by photographers. In the 1800s, they were feared by sailors. A number of well known shipwrecks litter this coastline, the fogs masking the warning lights of the nearby lighthouses. Loch Ard Gorge is a bay protected by huge rock walls with only the narrowest of gaps in between. In 1854, the Loch Ard ran aground in heavy seas and only two of 54 passengers survived, escaping into this narrow bay and up the angled sands of the beach.

To the naked eye, it appears that one or two of the other apostles do not have a long life left either as each wave nibbles away at the base of each rock tower to satisfy nature’s voracious appetite for these limestone towers.

It was only 15 years earlier that another nearby formation was partially lost to erosion. London Bridge lost its land-connected arch. Fortunately, no one fell in the water but several had to be rescued from the intact arch, now no longer attached to the land. It is a bit strange to look on knowing that I walked out over that now fallen archway. I noted recently that the signs have now been altered to London Arch, which is not nearly as evocative as a name.

The Great Ocean Road is a true travel wonder of the world. Enjoy it before there are only seven…or six…


The two old images are scanned photos which were taken in 1985 with a cheap camera on a dull overcast day. My apologies for the quality of these two photographs.


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