Great Ocean Road: 20th November 2015.
The Loch Ard Gorge would stand up as a spectacular attraction in its own right, for it’s an almost circular inset of the sea, surrounded by steep, red, imposing cliffs. But, it was here that the only two survivors of the ill-fated 19th Century sailing ship, the Loch Ard were washed, after it sank after running aground at nearby Mutton Island.
On the way there, Jeremy put a CD into the player and we heard the story of how the courageous apprentice seaman, 15 year old Thomas Pearse climbed the almost inaccessible cliffs to find help for his companion, 17 year old Eva Carmichael. At the top of the cliff, he found hoofprints in the ground, and, following them, came upon two riders from nearby Glenample Station, from where a rescue was organised and effected.
If this was a work of fiction, it would almost inevitably end with ‘Reader, I married him!’ or words to that effect. But, they went their separate ways; Tom to be hailed as a hero and to eventually become a ship’s Captain and Eva, with all her family lost, to return to Ireland. She did make something of a name for herself, though, speaking about her experience. Although, unlike Eliza Fraser, of Fraser Island fame, she did, by all accounts, stick fairly closely to the original story.
The steps that now lead down to the beach approximately follow Tom’s route, which is certainly one that you wouldn’t normally attempt without a companion, a rope and some pitons.
The Loch Ard was by no means the only ship to be lost here; indeed, the whole area is known as the ‘Shipwreck Coast’ and, after lunch in Port Campbell, we saw even more of it.