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On Walkabout At: Port Campbell National Park – Part 2

Prior Posting: Port Campbell National Park – Part 1
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Loch Ard Gorge

The next cluster of incredible rock formations along Victoria’s southern coastline encompassed by Port Campbell National Park is Loch Ard Gorge. This area has a variety of amazing rock formations that are distinctly different from the previous 12 Apostles to include this amazing arch known as the Island Archway:

The Tragic Tale of the Loch Ard

This cluster of rock formations and gorges received its name after a ship named the Loch Ard that set sale from Gravesend, England on March 2, 1878 and wrecked like many ships before on this rocky coastline.


The Loch Ard clipper in England.

This ship’s crew and passengers were holding an on-deck party in honor of nearly completing their three month journey to Melbourne. However, the party quickly ended when a look out saw the rocky coastline directly in front of them. The ship’s captain had misjudged how close to the coast they were and the ship was not able to change direction quickly enough before crashing into the rocks spilling all 37 passengers and 19 crewmen overboard into the cold and rough waters. Ultimately only two people survived the crash to tell the tale of what happened that night.

By personally seeing how rugged the coast line here is it is amazing that anyone survived the wreck. Some of the massive rock formations here looks very similar to some of the rock formations over at the 12 Apostles:

Then other formations are just long rocky peninsulas such as this rock wall known as the razorback:

There is a variety of trails to view this rocky coastline from and while walking around the various trails it was easy to see that even if someone was able to get washed up onto one of the few beaches located within the gorges, there would be no way of climbing up the rock walls:

It was on one of these beaches that one of the survivors of the Loch Ard, a crew member by the name of Thomas Pearce washed up on. When he washed up on the beach he heard the screams of the other survivor, a female passenger by the name of Eva Carmichael who was clinging to a wreckage from the ship. Pearce swam out back into the ocean and rescued Carmichael by bringing her back to the beach.

Loch Ard Beach

This is the beach at Loch Ard Gorge that is where the two survivors of the Loch Ard found refuge:

By walking out onto one of the rocky peninsulas that form the gorge it is possible to see how long and narrow this gorge is:

The two survivors were extremely lucky that they did not get washed up into one of the various ocean caves or gorges with no beaches in them that litter this coastline:

The parks department has constructed a staircase to walk down to the beach where the two Loch Ard survivors were washed up at. From the beach the ocean actually looks quite pleasant an calm compared to the crashing waves located outside of this gorge:

By standing on the beach I was able to better appreciate how high the rocky coastal cliffs surrounding the beach really are to include this cave that the Loch Ard survivors initially sought refuge in:

The Rescue of the Loch Ard Survivors

Incredibly Loch Ard survivor Thomas Pearce climbed up this rock cliff some how and walked to a local farmhouse to raise the alarm about the shipwreck. Soon after a local rescue team was able to safely recover Eva Carmichael from the beach.

Thomas Pearce
Eva Carmichael

The wreck of the Loch Ard was major news back then in Melbourne dominating the local headlines.  The papers made Tom Pearce a hero and speculation mounted whether a fairy tale romance between 19 year old Tom and the beautiful 18 year old Irish born Eva Carmichael would take place. Carmichael however had no intentions of starting a romance with anyone because she was in deep grieving due to the fact that she lost both her parents and all five siblings that were traveling with her on the boat.

The Aftermath of the Loch Ard Disaster

She decided to return to Ireland three months after the wreck to live with her grandmother. She ended up marrying, moving to England, having three sons, and living to 74 years of age before passing away in 1934. Tom on the other hand stayed in Australia and married the sister of a crewmen he was friends with that died on the Loch Ard. They had two sons before Tom passed away at 49 years of age. His oldest son became a ship’s captain and ironically died in a shipwreck. His youngest son went on to be awarded high combat honors during the First World War.

Today a few of the casualties of the Loch Ard disaster are buried at a local cemetery near the gorge:

Grave of the Carmichael family which only the rescued Eva Carmichael was a survivor of:

Not many bodies were recovered after the wreck thus a plaque was constructed to remember all 54 people who died in this tragedy:

Thunder Cave

From the cemetery I continued to walk westward along the coastline. From one viewpoint during the walk I was able to see Mutton Bird Island which was the rock islet that the Loch Ard initially crashed against:

From there I continued down the coastline and eventually came to a rocky gorge known as the Thunder Cave:

It is quite easy to understand how this cave received its name. Waves from the ocean are funneled up this narrow gorge which only increases the ferocity of the waves hitting the rocky walls:

Concluding My Walk

From Thunder Cave I continued the walk westward and the rain then proceeded to come down in buckets on me. I was glad I brought my rain jacket and umbrella with me. I started quickly walking back to the car park. Along the way I took at few last pictures of the Port Campbell coastline and its large waves that continues to shape the geography of this fantastic part of Victoria:

Conclusion

There is actually more rock formations further west of Loch Ard to see but the rain was coming down so heavy now my wife and I decided to head on back home. We had seen most of the park and had a great time doing so despite the buckets of rain that were falling on us. Port Campbell National Park is without a doubt a great way to conclude a drive on Australia’s Great Ocean Road and is a must see for anyone planning on visiting Victoria, even in the rain.

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