Cape Otway Lighthouse | Great Ocean Road | Loch Ard Gorge | The Blowhole | London Bridge

One of the scenic stops on the Great Ocean Road, Loch Ard Gorge in Port Campbell offers a great place to explore and learn about the tragic history etched into this place.

Loch Ard Gorge is just 8 km east of Port Campbell and a few minutes drive west of The Twelve Apostles. From the carpark area there are a number of trail walks.

Aerial view of the Loch Ard Gorge area - Great Ocean Road, VIC
Aerial view of the Loch Ard Gorge area – Great Ocean Road, VIC

Loch Ard Gorge is named after the clipper ship Loch Ard, that ran aground on nearby Mutton Bird Island on 1 June 1878 approaching the end of a three-month journey from England to Melbourne.

The Loch Ard Approaches signage, Great Ocean Road, VIC
The Loch Ard Approaches signage, Great Ocean Road, VIC

On the 2 March, 1878, under the command of Captain George Gibb, the clipper Loch Ard set sail from Gravesend, England, bound for Melbourne, Australia. On board were fifty-four passengers (36 crew and 18 passengers). The passengers were seeking new lives on the other side of the globe. Among these passengers was Eva Carmichael, who at 18 years of age, had set off from Dublin, Ireland with her parents and three sisters in search of a better life.

Also on board was a young man called Tom Pearce, who at 18 years of age had left his family in Gravesend, near London, to serve as a midshipman on board the Loch Ard.

After a thirteen week voyage, the Loch Ard arrived off the coast of Australia. Both Eva and Tom were now 19 years old. That night as they passed Port Campbell, the ship veered off course during stormy weather. Tragedy struck as the Loch Ard struck a rocky island and the ship sank in fifteen minutes.

Tom was washed into the opening of the gorge nearby, and managed to swim to the beach. From there he spotted Eva, who was struggling in the ocean dressed only in a nightgown. Eva could not swim. Tom swam out to her, battling the storm and the waves once more, and rescued her.

Of all the people aboard the Loch Ard, Tom and Eva were the only two survivors.

From the top of the cliff at Loch Ard Gorge, visitors can read the dedication to the 52 people who lost their lives, including five members of Eva’s immediate family, and all the crew except for Tom.

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

The Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum in Warrnambool has more in-depth information about this tragedy.

The Wreck

While Australia’s goldfields enticed people from all over the world, many lost their lives on the treacherous ‘Shipwreck Coast’.

Captain Gibb set full sail to turn the Loch Ard away from danger, but wind and current carried the ship towards the cliffs. Sails were then lowered and anchors dropped, but they dragged across the ocean floor.

In a final desperate attempt, the anchors were cut and sails again raised. The ship began to make headway, nearly cleaning the cliffs, but the bow struck a shallow reef and stuck fast.

Water flooded into the cabins. With each swell, the yardarms smashed against the cliff face bringing pieces of mast and rock crashing down. Waves swept across the deck, hampering attempts to launch the lifeboats.

Paralysed with fear, passengers clung to one another and, amidst their screams and cries, the ship slipped into the silent depths below.

Source: Port Campbell National Park signage.

There is a map of the area that can be downloaded Visit 12 Apostles official site from Loch Ard map.


The Blowhole – Loch Ard Gorge

There is a lookout at the Loch Ard Gorge where you can even view The Blowhole.

The Blowhole

‘An Eerie Purple Light’.

After the wreck of the Loch Ard, eleven bodies floated in the waters below.
At night following the wreck, the Blowhole glowed with an eerie purple light from wax vestas (phosphorous matches) washed in from the cargo.

The Blowhole is connected to the sea by a long narrow tunnel. When heavy seas are running, waves compress air trapped in the tunnel and enter the cavern with a loud roar.

The tunnel extends 100 metres inland from here, and is gradually being enlarged by the force of the sea.

Source: park signage

There is a map of the area that can be downloaded Visit 12 Apostles official site from Loch Ard map.


Footnote & References

  1. Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum