Great Ocean Road: If you like driving along the Northern California and Oregon coasts, you will love driving the 243 km Great Ocean Road (GOR) from Warrnambool to just outside Melbourne.
If you get car sick, it’s not for you.
The drive is known for its views of the dramatic sandstone cliffs and outcrops that tower up to 70 meters above the Southern Ocean.
London Bridge is one of the first sandstone features you see when driving east from Warrnambool.
You may think that the bridge is the one visible in the photo, but the feature was named when the isolated outcrop was connected by a bridge to the mainland. On January 15, 1990, the bridge collapsed, stranding two people on the newly formed island. See a pre-1990 photo at http://reference.findtarget.com/search/London%20Arch/. Given that the bridge collapsed only 21 years ago, I was impressed that there was no rocky debris below – a testament to the strong wave action along that part of the coast.
12 Apostles: The best known feature, where thousands of tourists gather to view each day, are the 12 Apostles – giant sandstone pillars that stand just off the coast.
The best vantage point requires taking photographs in opposite directions to get an image of all the Apostles. Don’t try counting them. There aren’t 12 anymore as some of the Apostles have collapsed since they were first named.
The trip along the GOR was a nostalgic one for me, as I drove it with a friend 41 years ago in Morris Mini-Minor (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Morris_Mini-Minor_1967.jpg) – think of a current day Mini-Coupe without any safety equipment. I use a photo of the Apostles from 1970 in one of my favorite astronomy activities – Planet Picking in the Astro Adventures curriculum. After hearing about the collapse of several Apostles, I expected there to be more changes than I found – see comparison below.
50 Koalas: The highlight of the drive this time was the sighting of at least 50 koalas on a side road from the GOR to the Cape Otway lighthouse. There was one in almost every tree along a 100 meter stretch of the road. One always hears how difficult it is to find koalas, so we felt very privileged to find so many. Unlike many other animals, they don’t move much, so it was easy to photograph them. But you also can’t wait for them to move to get a better angle for your photograph.
Through the magic of time-lapse photography at 1 or 2 photos per minute, I was a able to capture the movement of a couple koalas. One even showed a burst of energy to go from a seated, sleeping position to holding on to a tree limb with only his front feet. We worried he was losing his grip and might fall. In reality he was getting in position to “take a dump” that bounced off the top of our car and into the bush.
The other time-lapse sequence shows the meticulous process followed to eat a eucalyptus leaf.
1 Echidna Crossing the Road: Topping off the day was the sighting of another animal not often seen – the echidna — as it slowly saundered across the GOR.
It then turned around and crossed the other way — stopping all traffic, causing people to jump out of their cars to get photos and producing a traffic jam.
We left wondering if the echidna would become flattened fauna with his indecision about which side of the road he wanted to be on.
This leaves only one major Australian animal we have left to see – the platypus. After the GOR we left for New Zealand, so the platypus will have to wait until our next trip to The Land of Oz.