Victoria’s Shipwreck Coast

The Great Ocean Road, hugs Victoria’s Shipwreck Coast  from Lorne to Warrnambool.

It was built by returned servicemen as a permanent memorial to the lives lost, and the sacrifices of the diggers in WWI.

Building of the Great Ocean Road commenced in 1919 with 3000 ex-servicemen carving the road by hand, into the steep cliffs from Lorne to Anglesea.  Using picks, shovels and horse drawn carts they laboured for 13 years.  The road was officially opened in 1932 with a toll being paid at Eastern View (where the memorial arch is).  The State Government took over the road in 1936 and the toll was abolished.

Today the road stretches 243km hugging the cliffs from Torquay and Allansford, passing through the hamlets of Wye River, Kennett River, Apollo Bay and Port Campbell.  It passes lighthouses, the famous Bells Beach and the iconic Port Campbell National Park with the Twelve Apostles, and the Loch Ard Gorge.

Loch Ard Gorge

 

The Loch Ard Gorge is named after one of Australia’s worst shipwreck tragedies, the Loch Ard,  a ship that ran aground there on 31 May 1878.  Laden with passengers and cargo, it was sailing from England to Melbourne, when it hit fog and ran aground on a rocky reef at the base of Mutton Bird Island, near Port Campbell.  Only two of the 54 passengers and crew survived.  Tom Pearce, a crewman clung to an overturned lifeboat and was washed into the gorge that now bears the ships name.  Eva Carmichael, a passenger, who was swept off the ship by a huge wave, was plucked from the sea by Tom who swam back out and pulled her ashore.  Tom and Eva sheltered in the caves at the base of the cliff until morning, at at daylight Tom climbed the sheer cliffs in search of help.

Part of the salvage from the ship was a 144cm tall glazed earthernware peacock by Minton, which is now on permanent display at the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village in Warnambool.

The caves at the base of the cliff are now named after Tom and Eva, who both recovered from their ordeal, with Eva returning to England six weeks later by steamship.

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