Naming the 12 Apostles

Naming the 12 Apostles

From Piglets to Apostles.

Background to the naming of the 12 Apostles

Early charts refer to the 12 Apostles as the Sow and Piglets these were mapped and noted by George Bass in 1798.

  • When Superintendent C.J. La Trobe (soon to be governor of Victoria) passed through this area en route to Cape Otway in 1846, his chart reflected “Sow and Piglets and included more than 12 rock stacks between the Loch Ard Gorge and the current viewing platform.
  • The formation was reported in Melbourne Newspaper “the Argus” on 25th December 1897 as “a line of tall rocks rising out of the sea, completely cut off from the mainland of sandstone, which runs sheer down to the water. These are known as the Sow and Pigs, the Pinnacles or the Twelve Apostles.” Definitely not sandstone find out more about Port Campbell National Park Geology here
  • The earliest photo we can find of the formation from the current viewing area (1891) refers to the famous sea stacks as “the Pinnacles.”
  • A significant catalyst for tourism in the area was driven by media surrounding local shipwrecks including the Loch Ard in 1878 and the Fiji in 1891.
  • When rail came to Timboon in April 1892 visitors arriving into the area were transported by horse drawn coach via the Old Coach Road which ran between Port Campbell and Princetown. Many would have been travelling to and staying at establishments including Ozone and Rivernook Guesthouses and The Fiji Coffee Palace in Princetown. During this era visitors would have been viewing the formations from the Old Coach Road not necessarily from a specific viewing area. Stacks that would have been viewable in this era include the stacks to the east of the Razorback that are not viewable from the current 12 Apostles viewing area.

Who named the 12 Apostles?

Although there is not a document, person or group that can tell us who named the 12 Apostles and when they were named, there is evidence to suggest the name has been in use as early as the 1890’s.

Tourism in the area was accelerated around reporting of significant shipwrecks including the Loch Ard in 1878 and the Fiji in 1891.

We acknowledge the Kirrae Whurrong people of the Eastern Maar nation as the traditional owners of this wonderful part of country. We acknowledge a cultural story and wisdom that has survived and thrived through the shaping of this scenery for over 50 000 years and a connection that is deep and ongoing today.

A different context 

  • 18 000 years ago the shoreline of this region would have been 70km south of today’s coastline.
  • 2000 years ago the 12 Apostles area would likely been a series of bays and headlands with some of the headlands forming sea caves and arches.
  • 130 years ago we start finding evidence of the current day naming of sea stacks which are remnants of the headlands Find out more about Port Campbell National Park Geology


How many of the 12 Apostles are left standing?

From the current 12 Apostles viewing area visitors can view 7 sea stacks reduced from 8 after a collapse in 2005. Visitors can also view 2 rock stacks to the east. These are on Gibson Steps beach and are named Gog and Magog. The bigger one (Gog) was referred to as Ironclad rock in early photos and postcards.

Sea stacks that appear in CJ Latrobe’s 1846 chart are named as the Sow and Piglets. These stacks can be viewed looking east from the Razorback viewing area at Loch Ard Gorge. Could these sea stacks been part of the original 12 Apostles naming? They were named at a time when visitors would have been viewing the scenery as a walk or horse drawn cart ride along the coast not necessarily from the current viewing area.  These more hidden sea stacks are also viewable from the air for those taking a flight with 12 Apostles Helicopters


Accommodation Nearby

Cosy Coastal Cottage Retreat

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Port Campbell Motor Inn

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Port Campbell Views

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Pixies at Eco Bay

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Things To Do Nearby

Places To Eat & Drink

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Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the Great Ocean Road region the Wadawurrung, Eastern Maar & Gunditjmara. We pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging. We recognise and respect their unique cultural heritage and the connection to their traditional lands. We commit to building genuine and lasting partnerships that recognise, embrace and support the spirit of reconciliation, working towards self-determination, equity of outcomes and an equal voice for Australia’s first people.