Nature at its best
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Information from the Australian Heritage Places inventory
Port Campbell National Park
Source: Go to the Register of the National Estate for more information.
Location: Great Ocean Rd, Port Campbell
Government: Corangamite Shire
Significance: The rugged coastline with sheer cliffs and rocky island stack formations contributes to the outstanding scenery of the park. There are a large number of these formations including London Bridge, the Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, the Blowhole and the Arch. They graphically represent the geomorphological processes of coastal erosion that are constantly taking place.
The area has representative communities of coastal heath, grass and scrub vegetation on calcareous soils. Morning flag (ORTHROSATHUS MULTIFLORUS) grows here.
Significant fauna of the area includes a small colony of fairy penguins, the only penguins native to the mainland and nesting sites for muttonbird (PUFFINUS TENUIROSTRIS). Ninety one species of bird have been recorded in the park eg. swamp harrier, Australian gannet, white goshawk, singing honey eater.
Between 1855-1908 there were five shipwrecks off the park coastline. In 1878 the Loch Ard went down, losing fifty lives. A small cemetery near the Gorge still remains.
Description: Port Campbell National Park is a linear coastal reserve between Peterborough and Princetown on the south western coast of Victoria. The Park’s sheer cliffs, gorges, arches and offshore stacks form one of the most scenic and best known sections of coastline in Australia. Marls (calcareous silts) and marine limestones of the Miocene Port Campbell Limestone are overlain by Pleistocene dune limestone in the place. The dominant coastal landform is precipitous and undercut cliffs up to 60 metres in height. Erosion of the cliffs by strong wave action is guided by vertical joints in the limestone, producing elongated bays and narrow gorges including caves between rectilinear promontories such as Loch Ard Gorge and the Grotto. These promontories pass through various stages of evolution under the influence of marine erosion. Caves are the first features to form, followed by arches, and when these collapse, isolated stacks, such as the Twelve Apostles, remain. The stacks are then gradually worn down to offshore platforms of limestone. Horizontal notches occur on the exposed cliffs and stacks where softer material is eroded from between harder bands of rock. Shore platforms are uncommon, but narrow benches at the base of cliffs occur where harder rock has developed.
The cliffs are backed by an undulating plateau of red-brown clay and Pleistocene dune calcarenite. The larger streams that dissect the plateau have cut down to sea level. These include the Curdies River, Port Campbell Creek, and Sherbrooke River. Smaller streams that cross the plateau emerge from the cliffs as waterfalls. Another feature of the plateau are the circular sinkholes that are often filled by ponds and swamps. In some cases these sinkholes have intersected areas of cliff recession such as caves.
Few beaches occur along the Port Campbell coast, and those that are present are usually narrow and backed by steep cliffs. Beaches are more extensive where there are sandy calcarenite dunes on the cliff crest. A sandy barrier occurs at the mouth of the Curdies River which separates the lagoon from the sea during times of low river flow.
Port Campbell National Park contains several broad vegetation communities, some of which are the largest and most important areas of native vegetation remaining between Portland and the Otways. The first line of vegetation along the seaward edge of the coast mainly consists of tussock grasslands and shrublands. The grasslands are dominated by blue tussock-grass POA POIFORMIS, cushion bush CALOCEPHALUS BROWNII, black-anther flax-lily DIANELLA REVOLUTA, coast saw-sedge GAHNIA TRIFIDA, coast sword-sedge LEPIDOSPERMA GLADIATUM and Australia salt-grass DISTICHLIS DISTICHOPHYLLA. Further inland are shrublands of coast beard-heath LEUCOPOGON PARVIFLORUS, coast daisy-bush OLEARIA AXILLARIS and coast everlasting HELICHRYSUM PARALIUM.
Soils on the coastal plateau that include a hardpan support species-rich closed heaths. These communities are dominated by scrub sheoke ALLOCASUARINA PALUDOSA, prickly tea-tree LEPTOSPERMUM CONTINENTALE, manuka L. SCOPARIUM, silver banksia BANKSIA MARGINATA, common heath EPACRIS IMPRESSA, prickly moses ACACIA VERTICILLATA and dusty miller SPYRIDIUM PARVIFOLIUM. The diverse understorey includes bare twig-sedge BAUMEA JUNCEA, sword-sedges LEPIDOSPERMA spp., bog-sedges SCHOENUS spp., and grass-trees XANTHORRHOEA spp. These communities may include an overstorey of messmate EUCALYPTUS OBLIQUA and shining peppermint E. WILLISII on better soils, or swamp gum E. OVATA and tree everlasting OZOTHAMNUS FERRUGINEUS on wetter sites.
The catchments of some of the larger streams include open forests of swamp gum and rough-barked manna-gum E. VIMINALIS ssp. CYGNETENSIS, with a heath and bracken PTERIDIUM ESCULENTUM dominated understorey. These forests may grade into riparian communities dominated by swamp gum, manna gum E. VIMINALIS, mountain grey gum E. CYPELLOCARPA, and blackwood ACACIA MELANOXYLON. The understorey includes a number of damp forest shrubs such as hazel pomaderris POMADERRIS ASPERA and musk daisy-bush OLEARIA ARGOPHYLLA.
The native mammal fauna of the Port Campbell includes eastern grey kangaroo MACROPUS GIGANTEUS, swamp antechinus ANTECHINUS MINIMUS, white-footed dunnart SMINTHOPSIS LEUCOPUS, echidna TACHYGLOSSUS ACULEATUS and broad-toothed rat MASTACOMYS FUSCUS. The avifauna includes a mix of species associated with the coast, estuaries, heathlands, open forests, and surrounding farmland. Some characteristic birds include the rufous bristlebird DASYORNIS BROADBENTI, ground parrot PEZOPORUS WALLICUS, little penguin EUDYPTULA MINOR, short-tailed shearwater PUFFINUS TENUIROSTRIS, Australasian gannet MORUS SERRATOR, grey goshawk ACCIPITER NOVAEHOLLANDIAE, peregrine falcon FALCO PEREGRINUS, striated thornbill ACANTHIZA LINEATA, singing honeyeater LICHENOSTOMUS VIRESCENS, white-eared honeyeater L. LEUCOTIS and beautiful firetail STAGONOPLEURA BELLA. The inlets along the coast support a variety of waterbirds and shorebirds.
Reptiles found in the place include the swamp skink EGERNIA COVENTRYI, glossy grass skink PSEUDEMOIA RAWLINSONI, jacky lizard AMPHIBOLURUS MURICATUS, White’s skink EGERNIA WHITII, blotched blue-tongued lizard TILIQUA NIGROLUTEA and lowland copperhead AUSTRELAPS SUPERBUS. Eight species of frogs have been recorded in the park, including the smooth frog GEOCRINIA LAEVIS and southern toadlet PSEUDOPHRYNE SEMIMARMORATA.
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