Five Apostles uncovered at 12 Apostles

March 10, 2016

Victoria’s iconic Twelve Apostles may have to rethink its name after the discovery of five extra limestone columns hidden deep beneath the ocean.The sea stacks, thought to be up to 60,000 years old, were discovered during sonar mapping of Victoria’s southern coast.Located six kilometres offshore from the Great Ocean Road and 50 metres beneath the water’s surface, scientists have dubbed the world-first discovery the Drowned Apostles.Associate Professor David Kennedy from the University of Melbourne’s School of Geography said it was the first time limestone stacks had been found preserved in the ocean.”From a scientific perspective, how do they even exist?” he said.”Sea stacks are really transient features on the coastline, we only see them because the coast is eroding and they’re constantly falling down.”No one ever thought that they could be preserved over thousands of years with sea levels, so they’ve never been described anywhere else in the world.”The findings have been published in the US-based Journal of Coastal Research, and offer a novel insight into the complexity of Australia’s sea floor.

Apostle Top.Picture by Liz Rogers
Apostle Top.Picture by Liz Rogers

University of Melbourne PhD candidate Rhiannon Bezore, who made the initial discovery in the sonar data, said sea level changes had played a critical role in the structure’s survival.”The main factor is that through the past geological changes they’ve been through, the sea level rise has occurred at such a fast pace,” she said.”Because of that, they’ve actually been submerged before erosional processes could come and knock them over.”The discovery promises to unearth a fresh perspective on life beneath the ocean.Professor Kennedy said the high-resolution sonar data would allow researchers to investigate unchartered territory.”People are only now with the technology being able to see the bottom of the sea floor in this detail,” he said.”It’s almost like seeing an aerial photograph or looking at Google maps for the first time.”So what we’ve really shown is how complex it can be, because these drowned landforms are also the habitats for a lot of our fish, lobsters and abalone.”He said the unlikely boost in numbers could one day see tourists visiting the Seventeen Apostles.”We’d have to wait a few hundred thousand years for us to go into an ice age though,” he said with a laugh.”I’d like to think it could become a tourist attraction in and of itself — in fact, a couple of weeks ago we had a couple of technical divers actually dive on top of them.”On the sea floor there’s more of these features, and if you get down and look at them, they would be a similar type of view to what you see today.”It really adds something to the experience when you can look at the Twelve Apostles.”

Contador Harrison