Great Ocean Road in Australia: Day trip to 12 Apostles
Like the Pacific Coast Highway in California or the Sea-to-Sky Highway near Vancouver, the Great Ocean Road in Australia’s state of Victoria is one of the greatest drives on the planet.
Between Torquay and Warrnambool, the Great Ocean Road is becoming one of the most popular destinations in Australia, wooing 2 million visitors a year.
While much of the road offers stunning views, the main attraction is the 12 Apostles, a group of limestone formations that rise above the ocean. Wind and wave erosion have acted like a sculptor in gradually whittling the soft, limestone landscape into stacks, cliffs and arches. Today, the stacks stand up to 50 meters high.
This natural process of decay is still happening at a rate of about 2 centimeters per year.
Some explanation is required here. When they were christened the 12 Apostles by Victorian tourism in the 1920s, there were only nine in the cluster. Now there’s eight. And with the rapid rate of erosion, it is forecast that this number will reduce even further.
And there are actually many more spectacular limestone formations along the wild coastline. These are viewed from a road that, at times, literally rides atop cliff faces.
Formation and history
he apostles were formed by erosion: the harsh and extreme weather conditions from the Southern Ocean gradually eroded the soft limestone to form caves in the cliffs, which then became arches, which in turn collapsed; leaving rock stacks up to 50 metres high. Now because of this erosion there are fewer than ten remaining. The site was known as the Sow and Pigs (Muttonbird Island, near Loch Ard Gorge, was the ‘Sow’, and the smaller rock stacks were the ‘Piglets’), the Pinnacles or the Twelve Apostles. The formation eventually became known as the Twelve Apostles, despite only ever having nine stacks.
In 2002, the Port Campbell Professional Fishermens Association unsuccessfully attempted to block the creation of a proposed marine national park at the Twelve Apostles location, but were satisfied with the later Victorian Government decision not to allow seismic exploration at the same site by Benaris Energy; believing it would harm marine life.
The stacks are susceptible to further erosion from the waves. On 3 July 2005, a 50-metre-tall (160 ft) stack collapsed, leaving eight remaining.On 25 September 2009, it was thought that another of the stacks had fallen, but this was actually one of the smaller stacks of the Three Sisters formation. The rate of erosion at the base of the limestone pillars is approximately 2 cm per year. Due to wave action eroding the cliff face existing headlands are expected to become new limestone stacks in the future.