Great Ocean Road and Beyond (Part 2)

After our walk in the Otway Forest, we were next headed to the highlight of Victoria in which many people go to admire and experience.

As we made our way towards Port Campbell, we stopped at Gibson Steps for an up close view of the first part of the 12 Apostles rock formation.

At Gibson Steps, we walked down 87 steps and got to beach level where the first limestone rock we saw for the day loomed in front of us. Interestingly, albeit unrelated to the limestone view, we learnt that 87 is considered an unlucky number in Australian sports especially cricket because it is 13 numbers away from 100. Myth or not, it seems like even sports superstition exists.

After we left Gibson Steps, we continued on to Port Campbell National Park for the famous view of the rest of the 12 Apostles.

Interestingly, the 12 Apostles never had twelve limestone rock formations to begin with. In fact, there were only 9 of them originally. Unfortunately, one of the rocks collapsed in 2005 leaving eight remaining today. These limestone stacks were formed 22 million years ago through the process of erosion as the seawater rises and recedes over the years. These rocks are very soft in nature and the action of the waves that cut into the limestone makes them very susceptible to erosion which gradually form these unique standalone formations. With continuous action of the waves everyday, it is only a matter of time before another unfortunate limestone rock collapses. Or perhaps in years to come, as the seawater rises and cuts into the land along the coast, another "apostle" will be formed.

The 12 Apostles we see today were once part of coastal land until nature took its course and the repeated action of the waves eroded the land and thus created these standalone rock formations. In a way, this thought could be a little unnerving as we imagine what would happen to people on land as seawater continues to rise over the years. As the waves continuously cut into the land along the coast, a hole is first created in the base of the limestone that is closest to the seawater. As the hole gets bigger from the continuous erosion process, an archway is formed. The hole continues to get even bigger and the top part of the limestone that forms the arch finally collapses and thus creating what we see as the "apostles" today. The process from start to finish for an "apostle" to form only takes 600 years which is considered as very short in terms of geological time. The soft nature of the limestone contributes to the quick process.

Over many years, there is a lot of force from the waves onto the soft stone which gradually created cliffs along the coast as we see today. Again, the unique shapes of these cliffs were naturally formed through erosion from seawater.

The lines on these limestone rocks are marks left by seawater and they show how high the seawater level used to be.

A very short drive away from the 12 Apostles was where I found my absolute favorite view of the day: Loch Ard Gorge. The eroded limestone resulted in this beautiful formation that seems to be shaped ever so perfectly while creating a tranquil and narrow inlet of clear water that flows in just from the ocean a little beyond. The line marks on the rocks show how high the seawater level used to be.

As beautiful as Loch Ard Gorge is, it is also the site of the most famous shipwreck in Victoria. An immigrant voyage was well on its way sailing from England to Australia in the 1800s, with the entire Carmichael family on board the Loch Ard ship. Unsure of the ship's bearings, it was during dawn when the captain realized how close the ship was to running aground. He dropped the anchor and the ship got unfortunately pulled in and crashed into the rock. The only survivors were the captain and the 18-year-old daughter from the Carmichael family who later returned to England for the rest of her life after this horrible tragedy. In present day, the shipwreck still lies underneath the water and only authorized divers are allowed to go under water to explore the wreck.

At the inlet of the Loch Ard Gorge where a small serene beach is, we saw a hole that was gradually forming in the limestone. Could this be another "apostle" in the making? The erosion of rocks is a continuous process and will continue to happen even after we leave Earth and very possibly after the end of human race.

The above piece of rock, called "The Razorback", extended much further out to sea and is believed to have been as far as 7km out in the water. Again, erosion was at work here causing this piece of rock to be what it is today. As the limestone that is part of the coastal land continuously gets eroded in the many years to come, more roads and viewing platforms would have to be moved more inland.

In the above picture, we saw another hole forming at the base of the limestone. Perhaps it is again another "apostle" in the making?

If anyone thought about where the inspiration for the name "12 Apostles" came from, it was because people saw the figure of a face on the rock (as shown in the above picture). Look closely at the middle piece of rock and you might see the face of a knight looking out to sea. As to why the rocks were called "apostles", there really was no significance to it except that someone thought "apostle" was a nice name. Yes, the name "12 Apostles" was coined by a marketing executive, we were told.

Finally the last piece of limestone we saw, named "London Bridge", is also another piece of eroded rock. There used to be an archway that connected both rocks together but alas in 1990 the archway collapsed from erosion, leaving one part of the rock now to be free standing and out in the water. London Bridge literally had fallen down. At the base of the free standing rock, a hole has been formed as well. It is only a matter of time before the hole gets bigger while forming an archway, and then eventually collapsing.

Such is nature. It can form beautiful things but also destroy it, before forming another yet beautiful structure.

Paul told us a real life story that happened on the day London Bridge collapsed. A married man took a sick day from work but the truth was that he spent the day with his mistress out there. They were both standing at the edge of the London Bridge rock when suddenly the archway collapsed leaving them both stranded on the rock that was standing alone in the water. Rescuers came and saved them. Reporters were all around with their video cameras. Unfortunately for the man, his employer saw him on TV and knew his sick day was a lie. The man got fired. And his wife divorced him. Ironic, but maybe also a little amusing.

If you have not made your way to this part of the world to see this..... Go. Now. Before more of the present "apostles" gradually collapse.

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