Loch Ard Gorge, along the Shipwreck Coast (the Great Ocean Road), is named after the famous clipper ship, the Loch Ard, which was itself named after Loch Ard in Scotland, that sank near the end of 3 month voyage from England to Australia on June 1st 1878. The gorge is part of the Port Campbell National Park.
Hundreds of Victorian ships are believed to have been lost along the shipwreck coast, but by far the most famous is the Loch Ard which travelled from Gravesend to Melbourne. The Loch Ard story has almost become folklore in the area. It all started when her captain mistakenly thought the ship to be a good 50 miles from the coast when they hit the rocks near Muttonbird Island. Despite attempts to rescue the 1700 tonne ship, she was inevitably dashed upon the rocks.
The story isn’t all doom and gloom though. Of the 54 crew aboard the ship that sank, all but two perished, and the “Loch Ard Peacock” was also salvaged. So, at least someone survived, right? They were a couple of teenagers, and both only 18. A young chap, a cabin boy/ships apprentice, named Tom Pearce and a young Irish emigrant named Eva Carmichael, both made it into the cove shown in the picture above aboard wreckage from the ship.
The Loch Ard peacock is a porcelain piece , one of only nine in the world, and was destined for the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880. The peacock now resides at the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum in Warrnambool.
After Tom washed ashore on the upturned hull of a lifeboat, he heard Eva’s screams and went back into the water to rescue her after she had spent 5 hours clinging to a spare. The two spent the night in the cove, probably taking shelter somewhere like this small overhang. It isn’t very deep so would only have offered minimal protection from the forces of nature.
As you can see, the cliffs which surround the cove are all almost impossible to climb, but the nimble Mr. Pearce managed it. Great stuff! So off he went to find help. He managed it and the two survived. I told you it wasn’t all doom and gloom! Yeah, I’m a terrible story teller, I’m sure you’ll live. They did.
It really is a beautiful little cove, and such a shame that countless people have most likely lost their lives on, in and around this place. As to what eventually happened with Tom and Eva, well. Eva returned to Europe a few months later, having lost a number of family members in the shipwreck. Tom went on to the ripe young age of 49 and was eventually buried in Southampton, England. At least that’s how the story goes.
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that this isn’t the only shipwreck to have happened along this coast, else, why would it be called shipwreck coast and not the Loch Ard coast, right? There are a whole number of shipwreck locations along the Great Ocean Road and a lot of them are signposted or marked so that you can get out, stretch your legs and visit the location. In fact, there is a shipwreck trail which details some of the 638 known shipwrecks along this coast. That’s a lot of sunken ships.
Still, the whole road is ridiculously scenic and worth the trip so I’d definitely recommend you take the time to visit. In the summer months you could quite easily spend the day chilling out on one of the beaches with a picnic, tourists aside, the place is serene, peaceful and pretty; just what you want when you’re looking to relax! The best part is, Loch Ard Gorge is only a few kilometres west of the iconic Twelve Apostles, so you can quite easily visit a number of these well known landmarks within a few hours should you so desire.
So why don’t you take a tour or go and visit Loch Ard Gorge yourself. You certainly won’t be disappointed!
P.S. Sunrise and sunsets down here are astonishing, if you can I’d recommend staying there long enough to watch them.