Carving the 12 Apostles

The Twelve Aposltes

Visitors to this coast are humbled by a seascape that is both ancient in design and dynamic in form. The bone jarring slaps of leviathan waves an aural reminder of a distinct lack of permanency. 

Contemplate this spectacular theatre of stone, sea and sand from a network of National Parks trails and lookouts.

Limestone is a sedimentary rock. It forms in layers with the youngest rock closest to the surface. When you look at a cliff in this National Park you are looking at a vertical geological record of millions of years.

Whilst the Port Campbell Limestone is generally dated at 15-20 million years old, it is a common misconception that visitors are viewing an ancient seascape.

Remnant underwater stacks offshore indicate that the coast around Port Campbell may have receded up to 1km in the last 6000 years. Dr Eric Bird surmises that the evolution of a rock stack from headland to arch to stack and eventual collapse can take place in just 600 years on the Port Campbell coast.  

This wonderful natural gallery will continue to evolve and refresh it's exhibitions!

Walking along the beaches of the 12 Apostles
Sea stacks of the 12 Apostles

The spectacular variety of seascape in the Port Campbell National Park and Bay of Islands Coastal Park is not due to a large inconsistency in the erosive forces. It occurs largely because of a range of inconsistencies in the density and durability of the strata. The Port Campbell National Park cliff line and offshore stacks are comprised of differing densities of limestone interspersed with softer mudstone (marl) and calcareous clays.

"Port Campbell Limestone is harder in its top layers than it is in its bottom layers. The softer base layers allow the initial undermining that creates overhangs, arches and eventually new stacks."

The erosive forces of wave, wind and rain have in effect found their own “path of least resistance.” Surviving rock stacks like the 12 Apostles are generally comprised of “harder stuff” than areas surrounding them.

Factors affecting hardness of limestone are silt depositions (making it softer) and a higher concentration of calcium carbonate (which makes it harder).   Calcium carbonate is provided by skeletons and shells of marine creatures deposited on the old ocean floor. Limestone only forms in areas that have been covered by water. 

12 Apostles at sunrise