The Great Ocean Road …

It runs from Torquay to Allansford a distance of 247km. It is splendid from Anglesea to Cape Otway and spectacular from there to Peterborough. Driving it east to west allows it to come to an appropriate crescendo like a well written piece of classical music. You could drive it in a day … but don’t.

The Great Ocean Road

Construction began in September 1919 and was carried out by servicemen returned from the First World War. It was open as far as Lorne by 1922 as a toll road – two shillings and sixpence for a car, 10 shillings for a wagon with more than four horses. Passengers paid one shilling and sixpence, many tried to avoid this by walking along the beach around the toll point.

Presently there is no toll payable but that may not last!

The full length of the road was opened in November 1932.

Great Ocean Road from Teddy’s Lookout, Lorne

A pinnacle still attached to land …

at Aireys Inlet

and a rock that isn’t …

Split Rock, Aireys Inlet

The coast as far as Cape Otway is called the Surf Coast beyond the cape it is called the shipwreck coast. Ship wrecks haven’t been as common since they switched from wind power to more reliable sources of energy.

My advice to the traveler is

  • remember to drive on the left side of the road
  • try to avoid the summer school holidays Christmas to early February
  • don’t rush, spend a few nights on the road
  • along the surf coast make sure to detour inland to visit the Otways forests and some of the waterfalls
  • take a detour to the light house at Cape Otway – always worth it but in winter there is the added possibility of a whale passing by
  • beyond the cape concentrate on the magnificent limestone stacks and cliffs at London Bridge, Loch Ard Gorge, Twelve Apostles, Bay of Martyrs
  • when it’s done treat yourself to a couple of nights in Port Fairy the nicest town anywhere on Victoria’s coast.

 

The Otways …

The hinterland of the Great Ocean Road is the Otway ranges. These are low mountains that formed in the rifting process that broke up Gondwana. The ranges were once clothed in forest and quite extensive remnants still exist in the Great Otway National Park.

Forests have everything to do with rainfall. If we look at a map of Australian Forests we find them concentrated down the east coast, across the wetter tropics and in the south-west. A rainfall map or a population density map look broadly similar. The white patch ranges from semi-arid to desert and shows how dry a continent Australia is.

I borrowed the map from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. You should have a look <HERE> if you need further information. Perhaps because Australia has relatively little forest the definition used is particularly generous. If there are trees that shade a fifth of the ground it’s a forest. Real forest, tall trees with extensive canopies such as we find in the Otways constitutes only a fraction of what’s shown on the map.

Rainfall in the Otway Ranges from 700 to 1400mm (27 – 55ins). If you lived there you’d have to mow your lawn every week not just a few times in the spring like I do.

The forest types include wet sclerophyl characterised by the magnificent Mountain Ash Eucalyptus regnans and temperate rainforest characterised by Myrtle Beech Nothofagus cunninghamii. This is the furthest west that you will find rainforest in Australia. Throw in some ferns and the odd waterfall and you have a very pretty spot for a picnic … watch out for the leeches.

Eucalyptus regnans Mountain Ash
Kangaroo Fern

Australian King Parrots and Crimson Rosellas may well join you at the picnic table while Gang Gang Cockatoos stay a little further back. The habitat is perfect for Lyrebirds and Pilotbirds but they won’t be joining you. They haven’t made it across the gap from the forests west of Melbourne. Nor has the Sooty Owl but this is the place to look for the elusive Grey Goshawk.

And there are the more common forest birds …

Eastern Yellow Robin

Some useful links …

The Moderating Influence of the Sea …

I have enjoyed a few days in Anglesea on Victoria’s coast. The sea imposes a moderating influence on the weather. It was a cool and pleasant interlude while at home it was hot. Adding to my personal sense of moderation was the pleasant company and generous hospitality of the very good friends I was staying with.

Anglesea is towards the eastern end of the Great Ocean Road. If you’re traveling east to west it’s where the journey starts to be interesting. The road is Victoria’s premier tourist attraction and although I have mixed feelings about it there is no doubt that it is both visually splendid and worth a fortune to the state’s economy.

It’s been in the news a bit lately because, woe be upon us, erosion. The media have been discussing the impending crisis in terms of climate change and sea level rise. Thousands of tourists travel thousands of miles to see the effects of thousands of years of erosion. Sea stacks, arches, steep cliffs are all the result of erosion. And we’ve just started making a fuss about … erosion.

The Great Ocean Road

Coasts can be classified in several ways one way is to divide them into coasts of submergence and coasts of emergence. There are nice examples of both in the map above. To the right is Port Phillip Bay. At the height of the last glaciation the Yarra River ran across a plain and discharged into the ocean at the heads. As the sea rose the plain was inundated providing Melbourne with a large bay to sail around looking at a coast of submergence. For most of its length the Great Ocean Road skirts a coast of emergence.

Emergent coasts are a result of local tectonic uplift of the land surface or a fall in the elevation of sea level because of a reduction in the water volume of ocean basins. Quite often, emergent coasts have rocky coastlines with cliffs and nearly flat platforms that extend inland where older coastal plains have been tectonically raised and are now elevated above the modern land and water interface.

Pennstate U.

Another way of classifying coasts is as erosional or depositional.

In places where there is an abundance of wave energy or ocean currents and/or a lack of sediment available for deposition, erosion of the coast will be the dominant mechanism of change. Quite often, erosional coasts are narrow and characterized by resilient rocky shorelines that are exposed to high energy waves and supply relatively little sediment to the adjacent shore.

Pennstate U.

Where deposition dominates the land is advancing, where erosion dominates the land is in retreat.

One of the features people go to see is the Twelve Apostles.

Twelve Apostles in 2003 – Wikipedia

There were never twelve but there’s one fewer today.

These stacks are formed of limestone that was laid down under the sea about 23 million years ago. The region was subsequently uplifted. The seaward edge of the uplifted land has been undergoing erosion ever since. At the height of the last glaciation, 21,000 years ago, sea level was about 125m lower than at present. (And has been as much as 2m higher in the intervening period.) The cliffs and stacks we see today have been carved out by the Southern Ocean since then.

The sea may have a moderating influence on the temperature but it can have a savage impact on the land. That bulge in Victoria’s coast and the Southern Ocean are not in equilibrium. The sea will continue to eat that coast regardless of further sea level rise.