The Twelve Apostles were formed approximately 20 million years ago when the sea level was much lower. They are a collection of large limestone formations just off the shore of the dramatic coastline of Port Campbell National Park, near Port Campbell, Victoria.
The stacks are located at the southern end of a long and relatively narrow protected bay called the Port Campbell Inlet. This inlet is approximately one kilometer wide and eighteen kilometers long, ending at the eastern side of the Great Ocean Road near Princetown.
Everything You Need To Know About The Twelve Apostles Of Victoria
They Are A Collection Of Limestone Stacks
There are plenty of people that have heard of the Twelve Apostles, but they don’t actually know what they are made of. They are, in fact, limestone stacks that line the Great Ocean Road in the province of Victoria, Australia.
These rock formations have actually been in the process of becoming what they are today for years, through the process of erosion.
Over thousands of years, the waves from the Southern Ocean reduced the limestone down until arches stood in the place of the cliff edge that had been there beforehand. The arches eventually eroded, too, leaving these limestone stacks behind in their place.
They Don’t Each Have Their Own Name
You might expect them to each be named after the twelve Biblical apostles, and although this is where the rocks’ names stemmed from, locals haven’t actually named each rock formation individually. Instead, they are just known collectively as the Twelve Apostles in the area, and now they are world-famous by that name.
They Are Ancient
It is unknown when exactly the soft limestone was reduced to the stacks that we see today, but estimates are around 6000 years ago. What we do know is that the limestone around Port Campbell, the area in which the rocks are located, has been estimated to be between 15 and 20 million years old.
Geologists can tell this because soft limestone is a sedimentary rock, which means it is formed by constant erosion over the years by gathering more minerals and organic particles to create the rock itself.
Sedimentary rocks are essentially a timeline of events in the area for Geologists.
The Best Time To Visit Is At Dawn And Dusk
This is because as the sun sets, the Twelve Apostles are cast in an impressive orange light that really makes the rocks come alive.
If you’ve ever seen the Apostles on TV or in other media, then it is probable that you’ve seen them during this time, as it is the most visually impressive time to see them.
It Once Went By Another Name
Before it became known as the Twelve Apostles, these rocks were actually known as Sow and Piglets. The Sow portion of the name was derived from nearby Muttonbird Island, and the Piglets referred to the unique rock formations in the east.
Eventually, though, it became known as the Twelve Apostles and has been known as such ever since.
Initially It Can Be Difficult To Spot Them
So many tourists to the area arrive and are surprised to see that there are only seven of the structures visible from the viewing platform. This is because the sea stacks are actually quite far apart, and the way in which the land dips in and out at the natural curve of the cliffs nearby obscures some of them.
Following along to the east or west will eventually bring you to the remaining apostles, but it’s actually impossible to see them on land all at the same time.
There Are Actually Only Eight Rock Stacks
This is slightly confusing, but the Twelve Apostles now only refer to eight rock stacks. There were once nine, but this limestone stack, unfortunately, collapsed into the sea in 2005.
Whilst it is sad that these limestone pillars are dwindling as they continue to succumb to the rate of erosion, it’s also a fascinating example of how the earth continue to transform itself through natural processes and allows us all to think more deeply about how the earth must have been changing in this way for millions of years.
They Have Been Known Since At Least 1846
It’s impressive to know that we’re looking at a piece of living history as we take in the sight of these wonderful rock formations. They were actually first marked on a map in 1846, back when there were far more rock formations still standing.
Now we can see how the landscape has changed in more recent years and can imagine how it might continue to change in the years to come as history continues to repeat itself.
The View From The Nearby Beach Is Amazing Too
Standing on the viewing platform does not really give you a full appreciation of the sheer size of the limestone cliffs that you are standing on.
Walk down to the beach via Gibson Steps, and you’ll really be able to appreciate the 70m high cliffs above you, giving you an even better understanding of how fierce the erosion process must be in the area to reduce this colossal structure to simple rock formations.
It’s A Popular Tourist Attraction
Over 1.7 million tourists visit the Twelve Apostles each year, but it’s more than just the rocks themselves that draw people to the area.
The Great Ocean Road that you have to take to reach the viewing platform is an experience of its own, and many people visit for the panoramic views of the ocean and tall cliff line, as they do for the rock formations themselves.
Whatever your reason for visiting, everybody agrees that viewing the Twelve Apostles is an experience like no other.
They Will Eventually Erode Completely
Scientists have actually estimated that the softer limestone of the Apostles is still eroding at a rate of 2cm per year, and although we might not see another Apostle fall in our lifetime, it is certainly possible.
But worry not, it won’t be the end of these formations entirely. Yes, they will fall into the ocean one by one over time, but as the waves continue to erode the cliffs, new arches will form, which will eventually collapse into more rock formations too. Essentially, the Apostles will be back again, eventually.
There Is A Twelve Apostles Center
It’s worth exploring the Twelve Apostles center if you’re in the area, as here is where you’ll learn even more about the Shipwreck Coast and the history of the rocks themselves, and the future as erosion continues.
You’ll also get to hear more about the cultural significance that they have played over the years too.
So whilst the rocks and the Ocean Road are beautiful sights, make sure you explore the center too to learn more about these amazing limestone stacks!