Friday, 25 March 2016

Port Campbell Day 3

Today we went to explore Loch Ard Gorge where the sheer size of the cliffs and the narrow openings out to sea are just so breath taking. The picturesque gorge is home to a smooth, pearlescent bay and an inlet of clear, blue water. It’s flanked by two yellow-washed cliff faces and tufts of vibrant greenery. Our first walk was to the Island Archwaay and Razorback. 

The gorge is named after the clipper ship Loch Ard, which ran aground on nearby Muttonbird Island on 1 June 1878 approaching the end of a three-month journey from England to Melbourne. Of the fifty-four passengers and crew, only two survived: Tom Pearce, at 15 years of age, a ship's apprentice, and Eva Carmichael, an Irishwoman emigrating with her family, at 17 years of age. According to memorials at the site, Pearce was washed ashore, and rescued Carmichael from the water after hearing her cries for help. Pearce then proceeded to climb out of the gorge to raise the alarm to local pastoralists who immediately set into plan a rescue attempt. After three months in Australia Carmichael returned to Europe. Four of her family members drowned that night. Pearce was hailed as a hero, and continued his life living until age 49 and being buried in Southampton, England.

The arch of the nearby Island Archway collapsed in June 2009. The feature now appears as two unconnected rock pillars. They have since been officially named Tom and Eva after the two teenage survivors of the Loch Ard shipwreck.

The Razorback, it is impossible to walk these trails and not be moved by the powers of nature

This amazing rock formation so reminded me of the Easter Island head statues.

These magnificent structures are formed over thousands of years as the churning seas undermine the soft limestone around them and when that collapses leaves the formation standing out from the cliffs.

We then took the shipwreck walk - The Loch Ard was a 3 masted square-rigged iron clipper ship built in Glasgow, Scotland in 1873. It was 262 feet long.

The Loch Ard left Gravesend (ironic the name) England, on March 1st 1878, with 54 passengers and crew and a cargo valued at $100,000 (including the now priceless Minton Peacock statue on display at Warrnambool’s Flagstaff Hill).

Three months into what had been an uneventful trip, disaster struck early on June 1st 1878. Days of fog and haze had prevented Captain Gibb from calculating his position for the critical pass into Bass Strait’s western entrance. On the night of May 31st Captain Gibb believed he was several miles off the Victorian coast and was watching for the Cape Otway light, however as the haze lifted he realized that towering cliffs were only a short distance away and they were in trouble. Anchors were dropped, but they began to drag and the ship was crushed against rocks at Mutton Bird Island.

Mutton Bird island with the arch worn into the front of the island.

Here you can see the beach where the disaster unfolded, we walked the beach where Tom Pearce and Eva Carmichael struggled ashore. At the back of the beach are two caves, were we have seen our first stalactites out in the open instead of inside a cave. Fascinating geologically are the "Lace Curtains", virtually exposed stalactites jutting out from the cliff face where ground water has seeped along cracks in the limestone and created these rare formations.

From September to May a colony of short tailed shearwaters (muttonbirds) inhabits the offshore stack that is Mutton Bird Island. The views from the Mutton Bird Island Lookout are awesome, and given the numbers of people with it being Easter it was just lovely to have this moment and site of the magnificence of the area all to ourselves.

The wreck of Loch Ard still lies at the base of Mutton Bird Island and much of the cargo has been salvaged. Some was washed up into what is now known as Loch Ard Gorge following the shipwreck. Cargo and artefacts have also been illegally salvaged over many years before protective legislation was introduced.

I was able to photograph these beautiful little feather creatures who were happy to stay close and not run and hide as they so often do in this quite spot.

Next we were walking to Thunder Cave and found this small version on the way.

Thunder Cave got it's name because of the fact that even when the swell is minimal the roar inside the cave is awe-inspiring. It is hard to believe that such a relatively small movement of water can create such a racket.

 The views from Broken Head

Looking towards Sherbrooke River - The small river feeds into the sea near the battered low slung headland of Broken Head and the steep pitched Sherbrooke beach. The estuary view is dominated by the offshore Baker’s oven formation and the craggy Broken Head.

As the day was so full of sunshine and beauty we thought we would go back and have another look at the 12 Apostles. Early charts refer to the 12 Apostles as the Sow and Piglets. The Sow refers to Mutton Bird Island which is viewable from Loch Ard Gorge and the Piglets were the surrounding rock formations to the east. When Superintendent C..J. La Trobe passed through this area in 1846, his chart reflected this name. The rocks are collectively known as the 12 Apostles and are not individually named after the biblical Apostles. In living memory the 12 Apostles have always been a part of local vernacular. It is consistent in its biblical naming with other local formations like Gog and Magog located at Gibson Steps and the Grotto.

At first glance you will see 7 rock stacks to the west with the rest hidden by headlands and obscured by other stacks. To the east are a further two rock stacks referred to in local vernacular as Gog and Magog.


We then returned to Gibsons Steps as the other day we did not realise that if we continued our walk along the beach the second stack Gog or Magog would appear from behind the other.

What an amazing time we have had over the last few days exploring this stunning coastline called the Great Ocean Road, we give thanks for all that you have offered to us in our explorations.

We then headed back to Port Campbell and Kevin went for a swim whilst I sat and watched, it is way too cold for me to even consider a swim or a paddle for that matter.

Port Campbell was named after a Captain Alexander Campbell who was affectionately known as 'the last of the buccaneers'. He traded between Victoria and Tasmania and, being in charge of the whaling station at Port Fairy, began taking shelter in Port Campbell Bay in the 1840s during his excursions between King Island and Port Fairy.

Shell middens along the coast have provided evidence of the ancient presence, the diverse diet and the lifestyle of the Kirrae-Wurong people. Sealers and whalers were the first European visitors to these shores. As the colony grew Bass Strait became a major shipping route for cargo ships. Pastoralists moved into the area in the late 1840s with Duncan Hoyle establishing Buckleys Creek Pastoral Run in 1846 and Charles Brown leasing Glenample Pastoral Run (it was to feature in the Loch Ard rescue) in 1847.

The coast was so inhospitable that when Governor La Trobe travelled its length in 1845-46 he observed: 'I think a boat might possibly land at Port Campbell in most weathers; but with this exception, I do not know a single spot on the whole coast from Hopkins to Cape Otway where a landing could be effected with any chance of certainty.' Indeed Port Campbell is still the only sheltered refuge between Apollo Bay and Warrnambool.

This section of coastline was so isolated that it wasn't until 1875 that the town site was surveyed and the first land sales in the area didn't occur until 1878. The survey of the town site was probably due, in part, to the establishment of a beacon on the headland in 1874. By 1880 a proper pier had been built proximate to the present jetty.

In 1882 the town became famous throughout Victoria and Australia because it was the subject of one of the country's most famous hoaxes. At the time there was an unjustifiable fear of the possibility of a Russian invasion. Some wit decided to fuel this paranoia by telling The Age that there was a Russian fleet ready to attack. The invasion was to begin at Port Campbell and move across to Melbourne. So excited did the media become that some other Melbourne newspapers actually reported massacres and thousands of Russian troops moving towards Melbourne. Finally someone tried to find out the truth of the rumours and it was discovered there was only one tiny ketch anywhere near Port Campbell.

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